February 27 2012

Trinity Church Music and Song Blog

Trinity Church Drop-in Group

by Laura Bradshaw, Voice and Music Worker, Valley and Vale Community Arts

I’ve been working at the Space4U Trinity Church in Cardiff in a 10 week project with the aim of making music and singing with the Asylum Seekers who use the Centre.

During my time there I have had mixed and varied groups of people, men women and even some small children. The participants have been from all over the world – Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Tibet, Azerbaijan, and countless other places!

It was an interesting project to choose song content for. The participants represented a realm of different religions and cultures and it was nice to try to find songs that would resonate with as many people as possible. Some people had fabulous suggestions which I was able to research and then try out – Habibi – an Arabic love song had a beautiful catchy chorus that was easy to join in with, Waka Waka – the 2010 world cup anthem by Shakira was also very popular as a chant – everybody seemed to know it! Some people saw the singing sessions as another way to help with their language skills and wanted the challenge of more complex songs using song sheets.

The best and most flowing parts of the sessions were when we sang repetitive chants that didn’t need the use of song sheets in order to sing them. This had the effect of making everyone feel they were equal in a group and not just on the sidelines, hiding behind a sheet of paper!

We also made use of some hand drums and percussion instruments, which people really responded to, and which added to the scope of the music we could achieve. The participants had their own way of hearing and performing drum and rhythm patterns and they brought this diverse culture into the music!

During the last but one session the group was large and enthusiastic. We each introduced ourselves (as usual) and one of the Somali men asked everyone what was the meaning of their name. This was quite a lovely moment, and very interesting and had the effect of everyone beginning to feel even more of a sense of ownership towards the “music group”. I thought it would be nice to write down the names and meanings with the aim of creating a song. We didn’t have much time to start it off but there were some lovely ideas from the group, which I then took home and shuffled together to create a first draught for the last session.

We Are Here Now – We Are Human

‘Sitting in the shade of a universal tree

Harmonizing, creating a “peace” in which to be

We are here now

This is who we are

Floating in the currents of a never-ending sea

Where we’re from and where we go no matter if we’re free

We are here now

This is who we are

Still, calm oceans reflect our happiness …’

These were the melodious verses and the chorus would be a drone foundation with simple riffs to convey each name and its meaning.

I found it to be a thoroughly worthwhile project and would love to go back at some point to get to know the people even more and hopefully help to facilitate the group to become a real cohesive team- maybe even a performing group – enabling them to feel a sense of belonging in spite of their waiting in “Limbo”.

That, I suppose is what we all aim for, and is one of the things we can all offer as Community Artists!