During his travels to the war-torn nations of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan and Uganda, Hunter Heaney had an opportunity to sit down with a group of women, some of whom were rape survivors, in the Northern Ugandan town of Kitgum. This group of women were known for singing songs of peace and reconciliation towards those who had wronged them. In his conversations with this group of women, Heaney found out that many soldiers had escaped into hiding in the bush out of fear of reprisals and revenge from aggrieved families and tribes. The songs sung by these and other women were meant to be passed on, and were from word-of-mouth and through terrestrial radio, informing a generation of young men that they could finally come home, be forgiven and help rebuild their war-torn nations with their countrymen. 

Stopping in several village across Central Africa, Heaney learned that the protocol was generally the same: the women would sing and teach visitors their dwog paco or “come home” song, and they would ask their visitors to teach them theirs in a chain. Heaney’s go-to songs were usually Joe Purdy’s “Suitcase” and Edward Sharpe’s “Home.” When Heaney returned to the States, both Purdy and Sharpe offered their assistance. In fact, Sharpe held a fundraiser to help out in Uganda, and to show their thanks the dwog paco singers sent a video singing both Purdy’s “Suitcase” and Sharpe’s “Home.”

Inspired by the dwog paco singers and recognizing the power of music, Heaney with a couple of friends, filmmaker, Anna Gabriel (the daughter of Peter Gabriel); musician, Chris Holmes; and web designer Jason Young created the Voice Project. Anna Gabriel recorded musicians of all stripes across the world in their homes covering someone else’s work – with the idea that the theme of home be continually explored. 

The project developed organically as each artist would chose the song they would cover and the result would be something that sounded much like a rare demo tape or mixtape that was lovingly passed on. Fans of the project wanted to know when these recordings would be available, and the folks at the Voice Project have released these covers as an album with the proceeds going to help broadcastdwog paco songs across war-torn regions of Africa to further spread the word of peace. It’s a pretty worthy cause. Here, the Voice Project got one of my favorite artists, Peter Gabriel in his home covering one of his favorite Tom Waits’ song, “In the Neighborhood.”  

Gabriel’s rendition of the song has a haunting, eerie beauty to it, perhaps in part to the sparse arrangement. But it also shows that Tom Waits is an incredible songwriter.