Search

Music for Refugees

Use song and dance as a way to support thousands

Music unites people worldwide in many different ways, and is playing a crucial part in raising awareness of – and generating funds for – the refugee crisis. From charity singles to disco nights, here's how you can use song and dance as a novel way to support thousands around the world.

See the Songhoy

Blues Bands today know about graft: unpaid gigs, diminishing record sales, Kalashnikov-toting extremists... Well, perhaps the last one not so much, although Songhoy Blues know a thing or two about the lot. Aliou Touré, Oumar Touré, Garba Touré (unrelated) and Nathaniel Dembélé are four (very) unlikely lads from Mali. Named after their indigenous (and marginalised) ethnic group, theirs has been a stellar ascent, one bassist Garba couldn't have envisaged in 2012.

Accosted in the street by mujahideen fighters, guitar in hand, he was told decadent music was haram – sinful. If he was caught again, he would be killed. It would have been understandable if he'd burned his beloved acoustic guitar, but he didn't. He escaped to the south, soon followed by Aliou and Oumar. In the capital, the three Tourés met Dembele and before long, the band was formed. Songhoy Blues. Pride, resilience and, of course, the blues.

The Songhoy Blues are four lads with instruments, hope and a surfeit of ideas

They developed a following (mostly among the exiled northern community) and were soon earning around £1.20 a night between them. While Garba and Oumar were studying at university, the group played two to three residencies a week, in addition to weddings, baptisms and other gigs. Stressful stuff, especially as the three Tourés lived in the knowledge that their families up north were prey to Islamist fanatics who were fast taking control, with extremely violent and draconian consequences.

Yet, amidst this, the band caught the attention of of French producer Marc-Antoine Moreau. Travel to the UK to record at Damon Albarn's studio followed, and a spot at Glastonbury festival, too.

"They want to tell us that music is condemned by religion…" says Garba of the fanatics who tried to make him give up the thing he loved: music. "Well, not by this generation it isn't," he adds. With the evocatively titled album Music in Exile under their belts, the young band's fame continues to grow. But what surprises about them the most? Familiarity. This is blues. Not Malian, nor African. Just rock and roll: four lads, with instruments, hope and a surfeit of ideas above their station. They have already seen much of the world and now, it is starting to see them.

Spread the word and see the Songhoy Blues play the Roundhouse on 16 May, 2016. Visit songhoy-blues.com for more information.

Donate Instruments

Music Against Borders aims to 'bridge divides, connect communities and heal the wounds of war.' Through music, it empowers the displaced and provides migrants a resource to tap into their passion for music.

One of its key aims is to provide refugees at camps with donated musical instruments (particularly goblet-type drums, although all are welcome), and the organisation would also like to hear from people willing to collaborate on workshops and recording projects. It's also keen to get enthusiastic refugee musicians in the UK involved in upcoming festival projects and gigs.

Instrument donations need to be posted directly to Music Against Borders.

For information on this and getting involved visit musicagainstborders.org

Rock For Refugees

Formed by two former EMI colleagues inspired by news footage of the crisis, Rock for Refugees brings together musicians to raise money for several organisations supporting refugees.

The two were inspired by the spirit and resilience of Nujeen Mustafa, a disabled teenager who made the grueling journey from Syria to Germany. The pair's aim is to create live music events which will raise money and improve the lives of refugees all around the world.

Despite the catchy name, their focus isn't solely on rock music, with other genres in on the good cause, too. All money raised will support organisations including the Refugee Council, War Child, MOAS and Proactive Open Arms.

Visit rockforrefugees.com for details on events in 2016; @RockforRefugees

EDL – AKA English Disco Lovers – have a one world, one race, one disco slogan

Dance to Disco

You wouldn't associate a charity in aid of refugees with the EDL, and you'd be right not to. EDL (this one, at least) stands for English Disco Lovers, with a One World, One Race, One Disco slogan (while mantras include 'Don't hate, gyrate!', and 'Racial hatred is such a bummer, I'd rather listen to Donna Summer.'

On 18 December, they will host a disco-inspired party at the award-winning Komedia venue in Brighton, with £2 from each ticket going to the Hummingbird Project, an organisation helping refugees in Calais.

Visit edl.me/upcoming_events.html and facebook.com/Hummingbirduk for details.

Download Songs

Grammy Award-winning rockers Imagine Dragons will be donating all proceeds from the single 'I Was Me' to the UN Refugee Agency, highlighting the (often underplayed) power of the individual to aid change. Read more about lead singer Dan Reynolds' thoughts on the refugee crisis on page 64. Download Imagine Dragons' 'I Was Me' at itunes.com

Writer Pete Paphides and his wife Caitlin Moran have worked in conjunction with Save the Children to re-release the Crowded House song 'Help is Coming', with all proceeds going to the charity. Manufacturing and mastering costs have also been waived, while Benedict Cumberbatch has supported the campaign. Read why Pete Paphides got involved on page 58 and download the song at itunes.com

Festival Abroad

Refugee camps aren't traditional settings for a festival, but then Tumaini (Swahili for 'hope') isn't your average festival.

Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi, home to 20,000 displaced refugees, welcomed 3,000 visitors in its inaugural year, with a vibrant mix of talented performers from both within and outside the camp.

The aim is simple: change the way refugees are perceived around the world, by showcasing their creative talent. Dates are TBC for next year.

See: facebook.com/tumainifestival

Loading