By Roos Demol
It had been on our mind for a long time. We wanted to do something special, something that at first glance looked simple and innocent, but carried a lot of importance.
Norbert, at the same time, wanted to start collecting funds to keep up our work in partnership with the St Raphael Scouts and Guides group of Bujumbura to keep supporting the street children there, this time, by helping them back to school.
And we wanted to create more awareness about our guitars for people in direct provision project.
While sitting on the terrace of the BullMc Cabes pub, just across from the Direct Provision centre, it all came together.
We were sitting there with some friends chatting, when, out of the blue I asked the waiter of the pub if he realised how much musical talent lives across the road from the pub in the accommodation Centre. I suggested it might be an idea to let them come and play music in the pub, as in the summer they have a lot of live music. This is where the plan started growing. Our musicians all agreed to take part, the waiter spoke to his boss, who liked the idea, the plans grew from a small pub performance to an open-air world music day on the car park, with as musicians only asylum seekers. We took on the challenge and we never regretted it.
It was heartwarming to get the attention. It showed how thinking has shifted in Ireland, direct provision has become a concern to many people, and the willingness to do something positive but thought-provoking was appealing.
The rehearsals became a pleasure to attend, and I soon noticed we were doing something very special.
We had musicians from Russia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Burma, Burundi, Ukraine, the USA( the tutor), and South Africa, a young Sikh came to ask if he could join us with his tabla and without really planning it we formed a fusion band of 6 nationalities, all playing together and performing songs from different countries. Where else would you find a Burundian singer, accompanied by an American fiddle player, Indian tabla and a Ukranian guitarist with a Belgian woman on the backing vocals and a South African Bassist?
And so August 5th came and the musicians walked across the road from the accommodation centre.to the car park of the pub, where they could perform in total freedom for the neighbours, the people from Cork, fellow residents and anyone who wanted to attend.
We were lucky enough to have the Burundian drummers to come and open the event, and we filled three hours of music. We had a barbeque, kindly offered by the pub owner, and we raffled some prizes.
We hugged and we laughed and the audience came to talk to the residents. Direct Provision became the topic of conversation, people brought more guitars and we collected money for the street children in Bujumbura. Our objectives were met. We created awareness in a pleasant and gentle way, astonishing the audience with the talent hidden in the prefab buildings of the accommodation centre behind thick bushes and walls, we raised funds for our Back To School project in Bujumbura and our Guitars project made the news and caught attention.
It doesn’t stop here. Since then we have been able to support many children in the direct provision centre with new uniforms and tracksuits for school, we made some great working connections. We have also been asked to perform in Limerick for MASI fundraiser and we are planning a gig for the Cork Jazz festival. We’ll keep you posted.
If you can think of a name for our fusion band, please mention it in the comments.