The displacement of hundreds of thousands of peoples due to war and political instability weakens cultures and derails lives. Families leave much or all of what they own to survive and, once physically safe from persecution, bombardments, and armed forces, they often face a fight against depression, boredom, and stagnation in over-exerted, unsanitary, under-supplied camps.
These peoples are waiting for food, waiting for supplies, waiting for education; waiting to continue their lives.
Many of these refugees are capable musicians, and with the right tools they can help their communities reflect on their journeys, gather themselves, gather their histories, gather the story of their perseverance, gather the story of their present and forge themselves in the doldrums of their lives. Promoting this process can center the voices of refugee communities and provide an avenue in which to communicate with local peoples. This communication can be the start to meaningful assimilation and a guard against the rising tide of xenophobia that immigrant communities face.
Melodies for Refugees seeks to aid this process by providing an infrastructure in which these musicians, their communities, and communication can be empowered. Starting a music program is a consuming effort that most refugee focused non profits and aid organizations don’t have the resources to undertake. We seek to partner with these organizations to provide them with programs to support the musical traditions and conversations of refugees as a means of reflection, community building, and therapy.
Our aural traditions are essential to understanding our histories, comprehending our present, and carrying the summation of ourselves forward. On a planet where our pasts can be buried by the churning of soil and the globalization of culture, we need more than ever to hold on to the histories we have and carry them forward. We believe everyone deserves this right and we believe music can be that catalyst.
My intention in working with the refugees is to form musical alliances. Through sharing my own culture and identity, which embodies a history of displacement, I hope they will share theirs in return. I believe this communication, engaging with peoples as a representative of a peoples (not a nation), is vital to how we can grow from this era of change.
This project started out as an idea hatched from a This American Life episode about the mounting refugee crisis in Ελλάδα. I took something simple from the program - they're bored. After escaping the degradation of the Middle East and North Africa by foreign powers that lust after the resources of the land, these people are being denied their inherited and evolving histories through displacement and meager subsistence. My own family traces its roots to victims of the slave trade, a similar time in which civilizations were uprooted, disenfranchised, and truncated at the whims of oppressive forces. Being a couple generations ahead of my ancestors’ initial struggle and seeing the effects of our persistence through the nationalism that is "American”, I see a path for peoples to forge themselves as pillars of the societies they find themselves while holding onto what they can of their cultures. I want to share this history to encourage the continuation of theirs and communing through music is the platform I can set for this alliance. From one displaced people to another, we live on to give hope to others.
From these origins of thought and inspiration the project has turned into a music therapy program. This was evident on the my first trip last December when one of the attendees of my session began to embody our conversations and practices of rhythm through a Syrian mode of playing the dumbek. She began the sessions disenchanted with her surroundings and, after sharing the story of my peoples and my journey to them, could only summarize her culture in rhythm of the machine guns that currently rattle across Syria. I couldn’t say much to her ennui at the time but I continued to share and create a space where the antithesis of the that culture of destruction could be found.
One day when I walked into our session later than I had planned, she was playing the dumbek to the rapture and dancing feet of the whole class. We had a new cultural medium to work from and we reveled in utilizing it. It’s one thing to have these ideas about culture and solidarity but it was another thing to hear it’s affect around me. I’m charging ahead with this initiative, not because I think it will help but because I believe it will heal.
The budget is split in to three seconds, Subsistence Cost, Session Tools, and Transportation.
Subsistence Costs are my way making sure participants are able to participate without the mountain of real world stressors that can cloud our creativity. This capital goes to meals prepared for session participants, stipends for able musicians that take leadership roles in the program, and field trips to concerts to further inspire. On this excursion, I might be doing some sessions for the refugees that are stuck squatting in old abandoned city buildings. This sort of support aids as far as food and financial security is concerned.
Session Tool costs are for the materials that are necessary to maintain/modify instruments and aid in the learning experience. The materials include but are not limited to pencils, manuscript (score paper), music stands, instruments, dumbeks, etc.
Transportation cost include me getting to and riding the metro there after.
These cost are strictly set into thirds. If Melodies from Refugees has raised $910 (the goal being $2000). This means each of the three main categories has about $300 in funding. All cost out of the program and above the threshold of a 1/3rd of $2000 belong to me.
1/3 = Subsistence
-food for class meal
1/3 = Session Tools
1/3 = Transportation
- Hannah Dexter
- Leili Slutz
- Margot Pien
- Chris, Shana and Phin Cusack
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