Singing Aids orphans to leave their mark on Tattoo audience

ALL their young lives have been touched by tragedy.

Some members of the Watoto Children's Choir are as young as eight, but all have lost at least one parent to HIV/Aids.

This summer the 30-strong choir will travel from Uganda to take centre stage at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

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Their colourful blend of African dancing and contemporary gospel music are expected to be one of the hits of this year's event.

The choir has toured all over the world to raise awareness of the disease and raise money to send back to their home communities.

The choir is usually made up of around 15 youngsters but Tattoo organisers have asked them to double their numbers in order to make them heard more clearly at the Castle Esplanade.

It is also expected that the choir will perform at a number of schools and churches across the Capital during their four-week stay in August.

Tattoo producer Brigadier Mel Jameson

said: "I am very much impressed by their singing and dancing and I have no doubt they will steal the hearts and minds of Tattoo audiences. We are giving them one short but meaningful song in the programme and they will come on again for the finale.

"Their performance is a fusion of contemporary gospel and African rhythms. I expect them to steal the show."

There are around 1.7 million children in Uganda who have lost one or both parents to diseases including Aids, and average life expectancy in the African country is only 50.

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The Watoto Child Care Ministries was set-up in 1994 by Canadian missionaries who created housing and support for orphaned children in Uganda.

Part of this support was the creation of the Watoto choir and youngsters are given the chance to audition every six months.

Chas Musgrave, UK director of Watoto Child Care, described Watoto's performances as a soulful blend of native African rhythms and ethnic dance routines.

He said: "The choir is about raising awareness of the Aids problem not only in Uganda but also across Africa.

"This is one of the biggest concerts they will have played and it is great because they are acting as ambassadors for the millions of other Aids orphans back home.

"The Watoto organisation is very much focused on a positive future and a strong message of hope comes through in the songs and dance.

"It is a very energetic performance with dancing and singing, and I think people will be pleasantly surprised."

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He added: "The choir is used to playing indoor venues so doubling the numbers for the Tattoo will hopefully give them that extra lift to get their songs across."

Children from the Watoto choir visited the Capital last year when they performed at the Scottish Parliament as part of events to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

First Minister Jack McConnell and Presiding Officer George Reid were among the audience that enjoyed the choir singing in English, Swahili and Luganda.

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