photo via Matt Westerberg – Facebook

Peace Corps volunteer Matt Westerberg has been using the lyrics of Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow” to help teach English to 9th grade students in Northern Ethiopia.

Westerberg told Alternative Nation:

I am a Peace Corps teacher in a small town in Northern Ethiopia. I teach English to 9th grade students and run the school’s English club. Learning English is crucial here because it is a requirement to get into University and have career opportunities.

I am a huge fan of Pearl Jam, and 90’s rock in general (Nirvana, Soundgarden, Rage Against The Machine, etc). After class one day I jokingly wrote the chorus line to Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow” on the chalkboard. I thought it would be funny to have the kids try and learn it. They laughed their way through it. The next day, they demanded to try it again. After a while we went through most of the song day by day as a motivational tool. At first it was all just a joke, but after awhile, the students began to really build confidence through learning the song. Kids that were shy and quiet all year were suddenly more confident speaking up in class and loved participating in the song.

They began demanding that I teach them other songs ( we tried a bit of Red Hot Chili Peppers “Under the Bridge” and Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”). If the students finished their assignments on time, I let them practice the lyrics together before their next class.

I started filming clips of it for friends and family. Another Peace Corps friend of mine saw the footage, and asked to help make a video of it to share. We showed the kids the video and they loved it and the idea of sharing it.

Grunge is so far from anything they normally listen to in Ethiopia. However, they love the energy of it and a few students really like the style. For the upcoming school year, we plan on doing it again. My friends and I here are huge Dave Grohl fans, and we plan on using a Foo Fighters song as the next school project to practice English. Probably will finish and post it on Dave Grohl’s birthday this January.

So cool!. The power of music quite literally transcends all borders, races, cultures and national and socioeconomic identities.