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Channelling emotions through music

12 April 2021
Annah Mac delivers a song writing workshop at OCF

A collaboration between singer/songwriter Annah Mac and Otago Corrections Facility (OCF) has resulted in Annah’s music company Big House Records producing a CD of 37 original songs.

Annah has been delivering the 10-week Kowhai Programme, including song writing workshops, in OCF for over four years. Course participants are given the opportunity to learn the ukulele, perform as a group, write songs and record a live demo. The CD is the compilation of songs across the period and showcases the song writing and singing abilities of men in the prison. The majority of the men’s original songs on the album are rap genre.

“The Kowhai Project is a programme offering men new skills and a new way to communicate and express their emotions,” says OCF Learning & Interventions Delivery Manager Sherie Lucke. “Through the Kowhai Programme, they develop their musical skills and collaborative team skills. At the end of the programme they have the opportunity to record a live demo group performance and perform in front of an audience.

“Men on the programme go well outside their comfort zone. The skills and confidence participants develop is amazing - and usually no-one is more amazed by what they have achieved than the men themselves.”

Annah says she sees music as an important tool in a person’s rehabilitation. “Music is a tool that can be used throughout life to channel negative emotions in a positive way,” she says. “It can also see you spending hours of idle time creating something with little other than a pen, notepad and a self-made melody. At the end of this programme, the men have something they are proud to showcase, whether that’s a performance, song they’re nailing on the ukulele or an original composition.”

The CD titled after the programme (“The Kowhai Project”) was produced by Annah over COVID-19 lockdown when she was unable to deliver the programme. Copies of the CD have been put aside for the men contributing and will be sold for $10 each at the Fringe Festival drama production in the prison later this month. All proceeds will be donated to the Dunedin Night Shelter.

Tutor Annah Mac has an extensive background in song writing and performing as a former major label artist and double platinum songwriter. She has performed music throughout her childhood and adult life and has taken workshops in New Zealand for primary schools in conjunction with the Play It Strange Trust, independently at high schools, adult song writing workshops and in prison. Teaching song writing with a hands-on focus is Annah’s approach, and she is well known for inspiring and motivating others to channel their creativity into song.