SO WHAT DID I DO?
Wow!! How things can change very quickly. I just made it over the border from my Busking Tour for Refugee Justice and within a few weeks the whole world was grappling with the news of a pandemic. COVID-19 is something that will go down in history and I guess we will have life before Covid and life after Covid.
My life has changed drastically in recent months, not so much in my daily activities, but more in the inability to plan for the future. I was going to take a bit of a rest after the tour, however, I then had plans to record, do a Manus “Music Talks” concert at the Fremantle Fibonacci Centre, then it was the Denmark Festival of Voice and then organise another tour for later in the year. But all that had to be put on hold or cancelled.
One thing that I could do was release a track “We Live and We Die”. This is song that I wrote with a refugee Kazem Kazemi last year on Manus Island. He was detained there with another 600+ refugees for 6 years. He and another 200+ refugees are now being detained in hotels and detention centres across Australia. This song is important because its’ purpose is to show the human side to these courageous people who have come to our shores seeking safety. They are real human beings with skills and abilities but most of all with personality and warmth just like you and me.
So how did I release a track with no possibility of launching it at a gig?
I created an online “Live Stream Concert” on Facebook and invited everyone to join me in my virtual my studio. It was really good and I had a great response. I was also very surprised at how nervous I was, I guess I knew that it was being recorded so I had to be extra careful. When you play live you can get away with a few little glitches because it’s the overall performance that matters and people don’t notice mistakes. Well, unless they are hardened performers themselves of course lol. But it all went to plan and apart from the odd buzzing sound on my phone, because I didn’t turn off the vibrate function when people messaged, all was good.
I also put together a video for the song. This video was filmed on Manus Island when I was there February of 2019 and we had a gathering for my birthday. Kazem made me a beautiful cake and some muffins and we practised some songs to play to the guys. We also played “We Live and We Die” (Qassim’s song). Did I tell you why it is called Qassim’s song?
I met Qassim on Manus at the local hospital…he was thin, pale and lifeless and had not eaten for 12 days. He had lost the will to live and wanted to end his life. As far as he was concerned 6 years locked up on a prison island, by the Australian government was more than he could bear. He had been dehumanised, belittled, demeaned, beaten and had all his rights taken from him. I sat with him and another refugee who was in another room with the same feelings about life. He was thin, unresponsive and also had had enough. I went back to the hotel that night and couldn’t sleep, so I got up and sat outside and looked out over the ocean.
I sat behind the high fence with the barbed wire and a security officer who walked past every 20 minutes. PNG was not a safe place to be, especially if you were not a local, you would most definitely be a target for robbery.
Imagine what it was like for the 600+ refugees living there. I wrote some words down and the next day Kazem came to visit, he was very excited. “I have written a new song” he said, he had the melody and I had the words so “We Live and We Die” (Qassim’s song) was created.
SO WHERE TO FROM HERE?
It’s going to be interesting times ahead and I have many ideas of what I want to do. I will be recording soon, so I am just in the process of working out where I will do that. Then I would like to put together another tour of COVID safe small concerts, maybe in small halls, or venues or the like. To do more “Music Talks” about refugees justice and all things that need to be talked about for social change. Please go onto bandcamp to download a copy of the new track “We Live and We Die”. Kazem is a 50% copyright owner so he gets half of all the income from the sales of that song.