Musicians band together to release CD for refugees

Friday, June 27, 2014

Reclaim Your Voice
Various artists
Released June 2014
Blue Mountain Sound
www.bluemountainsound.com.au

Andy Busuttil of Blue Mountain Sound released the following statement on June 28.

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We would like to think of our Australia as a nation with a big heart. A nation that stands for the dispossessed and does its damndest to help those in need, especially those attempting to flee tyranny.

Yet the treatment of people legally seeking asylum under the UNHCR Convention on Refugees (which was followed by the 1967 Protocol) has been nothing short of a national disgrace. Since 2001 more than 1400 people have drowned on the voyage over from Indonesia to Australia. Something certainly had to be done to prevent these drownings from occurring. Unfortunately the solution has conceivably ruined more lives than the dangers of this voyage.

In its commitment to destroying what it called 'the business model of the people smugglers', the previous Labor federal government instituted a series of measures that led to asylum seekers, themselves victims of crime, being vilified and treated as criminals. They came to us for help and for succor and we put them in concentration camps behind razor wire under inhumane conditions where they suffered serious mental illness, self-harmed, at times suicided and watched their children degrade in front of them.

The current government took the actions of the previous government and made the lot of asylum seekers even more degrading and dehumanising. The fact is that about 85% of asylum seekers (who are legally seeking asylum and are not "illegals") prove to be genuine refugees. In other words they are people who are at serious risk of death if they were to have stayed in their own country. Some who were "repatriated" when their application for refugee status was refuted were reported to have been murdered on returning to their homeland.

As a citizen of this great land, I continued to feel a deep sense of despair and sorrow about what we were doing to these people. I decided to do the only thing I felt capable of doing to try and change my sense of hopelessness and helplessness about all this. I went onto Facebook and created an event page called "Reclaim Your Voice: Stopping The Punishment of Asylum Seekers". I wanted to "reclaim my voice". I felt muted and choked by what appeared to be the weight of public opinion against, and political commitment to stop, people coming to us by boat to ask us for refuge.

Music is the vehicle I have that can make my voice and the voices of others heard and it is the medium that has the strength and potency to reach many. I remember the protest era, the Vietnam war, the Moratorium, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Donovan, Country Joe McDonald and the many others whose voices made a difference. I put out the call to musicians around Australia to compose a song about asylum seekers and what we are doing to them. And of course, our musos being what they are, the response was fantastic. Too many songs to include on the one CD [a select few can be heard below].

My studio, Blue Mountain Sound, was made available for recording, mixing and mastering the compilation. Singer songwriters like Celine Yap, Spike Flynn, Peter Miller-Robinson, Christina Mimmocchi, Ben Scott, Chris Wheeler, Tony Eardley and Jade Leslie, hip-hop artist Benny Iota, roots performer Mark Lucas, international combo The Bridge Project, folk/rock/ska performer Torres Strait Islander (from Yam Island) Getano Ban, Aussie transculturalists Kavisha Mazzella, Blindman's Holiday, Pin Rada and Matt Stonehouse, The Firedrakes (aka Ali and Cam Gibbs), Renaissance Player of repute Andrew Lambkin (aka The Heather Mile), folk specialists Shortis and Simpson, and Iranian poet Hossein Babahmaadi (an inmate on Manus Island for three months) - all came forward and contributed brilliant, moving, heart-rending and powerful songs. Some were taken off existing albums, some were sent as multi-tracks for mixing and others were recorded and mixed by BMS.

The songs were compiled into a CD called Reclaim Your Voice and they are being pressed by MAD CDs with Pete King discounting them for us since they were to be used to raise funds for asylum seekers. We worked out who we considered would be a worthy recipient of the donation and that was The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

The CD was launched at a sell-out concert/protest rally held at the Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney, on June 14. The club donated the venue for the night, Robin Nahum donated the PA and his services. Music was performed by the artists who donated tracks. They came from Melbourne (Celine and Kavisha) and Queensland (Getano) and all parts of NSW. Dorothy McCrae-McMahon, Liz Biok from the Refugee Advice and Casework Service (defunded by the government in the last budget) and Mark Isaacs addressed the audience with short talks. Vince Scappa from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre greeted everyone and talked a little about the ASRC and what it is doing for asylum seekers. Mark had a book signing there on the night for his book The Undesirables, which is being critically acclaimed.

We have already raised more than $7000 and expect more to come. But perhaps more importantly, we have given voice to our anger over what is happening in "our name". Changes must be made to both popular opinion and political intent. There are 1100 people on the Facebook event page with over 7000 other invitees. This has proven to us that we are not alone. We are not isolated voices but a rising call, a choir of voices! And music is power.

To buy a copy of the CD, email Andy Busuttil at andy@bluemountainsound.com.au

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