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Byron Shire
May 7, 2021

Music breaking down borders and giving hope to refugees

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No borders music project. Photo supplied.

Yagia Gentle

There are many reasons why someone becomes a refugee; from war to oppressive governments and personal circumstances. Regardless of the reason, the result is a push into homelessness as people search for a better life.

In Afghanistan whole villages have pooled money to send a young boy onto the refugee trail and avoid him being conscripted by the Taliban. Families from Syria, left destitute from the civil war, trudge across countries seeking a safe future.

Nightly, hungry youths attempt border crossings to get to the ‘promised land’ of France, Germany or England.

On the road, children as young as ten travel on their own and are often beaten, robbed, traded as slaves and die. Corruption in the refugee camps means refugees are often left with nothing.

Beginnings

Having grown up in the hills of Nimbin valley, when he finished school Elijah Gentle set off on a backpacking holiday that eventually led him to volunteer at a refugee camp in Serbia.

It was here that he used his experience from playing and engaging in the music scene to set up music workshops. Some of the refugees were well known musicians in their own communities, giving Elijah the idea and drive to look at how he could help them record their music.

Raising money in Australia Elijah then returned to the camps to record their music. He travelled around Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece and Lebanon with a friend, organising recording sessions with mostly itinerant refugee musicians. They were joined by a Danish filmmaker for part of the journey, who has made a documentary of the No Borders Music Project.

Bringing it together

Back in Australia collating, editing and marketing the recordings is proving to be the most expensive stage of the project. Any profit will be sent to the nominated families of the musicians.

Farook’s story

One of the refugee musicians who has recorded with Elijah is Farook*, an Algerian Hip Hop artist.

‘In Algeria he was involved in making a music video for an Algerian reggae group which criticised the Algerian government. Everyone involved in the project was pursued by the government,’ said Elijah.

‘The band escaped and Farook reached Bosnia unharmed, however other artists suffered at the hands of the Algerian government.’

After numerous attempts to reach Western Europe Farook resigned himself to making a career in Bosnia.

‘He wrote a rap verse outlining some of his experiences seeking refuge, and together we made a hip hop beat on my laptop and recorded it in an apartment in Sarajevo,’ explained Elijah.

Elijah is now looking for support to complete the No Borders Music Project and to release the CD later in the year at events in Byron Bay and Melbourne, accompanied by the documentary made by the danish filmmaker.

To hear more stories and meet some of the musicians, go to the No Borders Music Facebook page @nobordersmusik or support the project by going to the GoFundMe page at  www.gofundme.com/no-borders-music.

♦ Farook’s name was changed to protect his identity.


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