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Elisha Beya

Elisha Beya

22 years old
Democratic Republic of Congo
WhatsApp: +265-88558749
Biography collected by Audrie Bernard, written by Lisa Gilman


Elisha Beya is a talented musician who plays guitar and some bass in different musical styles, including Congolese rumba and what he describes as Malawian maganja and gule wamkulu. He plays in churches, at festivals inside and outside of Dzaleka, and he is a music teacher. In April 2023, while we were completing the materials for this project, he found out that he and one of his brothers would be resettled to the United States.

Elisha Beya left his home country of the Democratic Republic of Congo with his two brothers when he was only about three years old, in 2008. After they arrived, they lived with an aunt and her family, but they didn’t get along with her husband, so they have lived on their own for much of their lives. To make money, the boys often go to nearby Malawian villages to do small jobs, such as washing clothes and house cleaning. Elisha emphasized that it has been very hard, but if they don’t do that, “we will not get something to eat.”

Elisha was interested in learning how to play music at a young age. In 2012, someone opened a center of music in the camp, so Elisha went and told them that he wanted to learn to play guitar. They told him that he was too young. He then went to one of the teachers and convinced the teacher to accept him. When he first started, he borrowed someone else’s guitar. His playing made people happy, so someone eventually gave him his own guitar.

Only a few years later in 2015, Elisha started teaching others to play guitar. At first, it was very challenging. He had never taught before, so he didn’t know how to manage his students.

In 2022, he started his own music academy, Eli Academy, where he teaches guitar to people of all ages, genders, and nationalities at no cost. He borrows a small classroom space that has a chalkboard where he can write basic music theory. He owns two guitars and borrows one or two others each class period. His students, most of whom do not own instruments, watch and learn, and then take turns practicing. Some of his students who started in the spring of 2022 performed at the 2022 Tumaini Festival in November!

He was motivated to start teaching because he saw that “here in the camp are a lot of girls and boys, they are getting lost with drinking alcohol and smoking,” and doing other harmful things to themselves and others. There are girls getting pregnant “when they are still young because of money.” He believes that “if the youth of Dzaleka learn music, it will be part of getting escape from all of that.”

Elisha regularly performs throughout the camp at various events. He is always busy during the Tumaini Festival accompanying multiple bands. He has had the opportunity to perform outside the camp at the Sunbird Sand Music Festival.

His dream is to spread music all over the world because he knows that music brings happiness and joy. When he is playing music, his mind is free and he forgets about all the negativity and stress he has experienced. He hopes to help others do the same through his playing and teaching.

Elisha Beya
Elisha Beya