Revive – Evening of Music Making

Interlocking hands

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Fri, 7/4/2017

Bringing the Community Together with Music

It is a sunny spring evening in Salford as the vibrant calls of African drums, bass riffs, clapping, and singing begin to sound out from the Revive Centre - a centre that provides support to refugees and people seeking asylum. I deliver music therapy sessions here every Wednesday morning, for service users who regularly attend the centre and also for those who have arrived to the drop-in advice service for the first time. 

Tonight is a jam night - an open music-making night for sharing music, dance, heritage and a feeling of community. Small heads are bobbing up and down outside the window as the jam gets underway, young children from the local housing estate intrigued by the unfolding event and excited to be invited in to join us. We are a mixed band sat in our circle; we are those who have suffered torture and fled our countries, those newly arrived and those seeking asylum. We are Nordoff Robbins music therapists and an English teacher who teaches at the centre every week. We are also service volunteers and their friends and families, members of the Just Youth team who work at the church opposite the centre and the inquisitive children who live nearby.

Our music-making is a joyous and excitable celebration of this diversity amongst our group. Performances have been suggested and group improvisations have grown from musical ideas emerging spontaneously around the circle. We’ve listened to an Arab rap performance. We’ve had a sprightly and (for some) completely new experience of Irish fiddles playing. We have sung, taught and learned Sudanese, Ukranian and Brazilian songs. Our night has ended with an energetic and spirited traditional Arab wedding dance. We moved round in a circle, kicking our feet over and up and finding ourselves weaving in and out of each other in a line, whilst spurred on by contagious drum rhythms, clapping and shouts. Opportunities have emerged within the music making for people to have their voices heard- to perform solos or sing with an accompanying band and to learn and value other people’s contributions, so that they too may feel that what they have shared is valuable. 

For most of the service-users I work with, experiences of having their voice heard, of feeling connected to the environment they find themselves in and of feeling valued by others can be truly rare. Many of those attending the centre are victims of torture and have lived surrounded by war and human rights atrocities. For a lot of refugees and asylum seekers living here, grief for the loss of friends and family, the trauma and severe anxiety brought by the past and concern for the future, are all still daily struggles. They may still feel as though they have little or no control over their lives, which means they are unable to meet their own fundamental needs. Many have expressed feeling isolated, lonely, and that it is difficult to navigate a life where you don’t speak the language and opportunities to learn by conversing with native speakers are hard to come by. Integration into their new society is a great worry for many who have told me that they can only spend their lives in their isolated communities made up of those from their countries, speaking in their own language. 

Whilst we gather together amidst the buzz and excitement for the group photograph at the end, it feels as though we are acknowledging an achievement, a shared achievement in nurturing the courage people have had to have their voices heard, an achievement in being able to listen, respect and value other people; a feeling of cherished connection and a celebration of humanity.