Rock and Roll Uganda

Rock and Roll Uganda

A local Army veteran is on a mission to bring rock and roll to a part of the world you least expect: Uganda. 

After an honorable discharge from the Army after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, local musician Justin D'Addario has been looking for that one thing that makes him happy on the inside. A very passionate veteran for peace, who is against the war on terror says he may have found that thing in his project, Rock and Roll for Uganda.

"I was so, so angry at the world," Justin told us in our interview. "Angry at world, life, and everyone I knew. I just had to get up and do something meaningful. I found the cheapest program in the world to volunteer with and they asked me where I wanted to go. They had about 30 countries to choose from and I asked which country needed the most help and without hesitation they told me 'Uganda.' Long story short I ended up not being able to afford the program so I just went by myself. I figured if that country is as poor as everyone claims it is then finding a place to help shouldn't be hard. I was right."

When asked about his first impression of the country Justin didn't hold back. "Poor, very poor," he said. "People living in mud houses with sheet metal doors and roofs... Uganda's entire clothing supply is comprised of donations from around the world, and clothes are cheap, so everyone dressed unusually nice. It was interesting to see so much dirt and mud but so meany clean, well-dressed people."  But how did a missions trip to Uganda turn into Rock and Roll Uganda? 

After arriving in the country Justin went to his hotel and began to walk around the capital city of Kampala. "I didn't see a single child," he told us, "I was petrified, scared out of my wits, and I also felt stupid. I went back to the hotel and asked the guy at the front desk if I was going to die and he said, 'No, but what are you doing here?' and I told him, 'I'm here to help the kids, where are all the kids?' and he called his friend who picked me up on a motorcycle and took me to a place called Rainbow House of Hope. I literally walked up to the door and said, 'I am from America and I'm here to help.' We talked about how I could help and when I told them that I played guitar their ears kind of perked up and they asked me if I could fix their broken guitars. I said yes, moved in the next day, fixed some of their broken guitars and started giving lessons."

Justin continued to tell us, "I had plenty of students, some more committed than others, but I had three students who wanted two lessons a day, everyday. After teaching them Smoke on the Water they asked to learn whole songs, so I taught them what I knew: rock music. They totally fell in love with it and by the time I left they were able to play Where Is My Mind by The Pixies - one lead guitar, one rhythm, and one guitar acting as bass. After I left they started teaching people but found themselves in need on a guitar so they made 75 bracelets mailed them to me, and asked me to sell them in order to raise some money. Things went well and I raised $1000 with which they bought six guitars."

The goal now is to get them a secure building that can hold plenty of people, and a place for the volunteers from around the world to safely live in while they teach.

They have a GoFundMe page set up but their main source of income comes from handmade bracelets. Students made nearly 1,000 beautiful bracelets from thread and plastic bands used to secure large rice bags and are given out in exchange for donations at shows and anywhere else we can set up. They money generally goes towards daily struggles like paying rent and fixing guitars. The hope is to build the unit and to back with ten local musicians plus a camera crew to film the whole experience to show the world what they are all about. Once it has been established musicians will be able to go over for free and teach.

Their GoFundMe can be found here.