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Songwriter explores the global refugee crisis

17 June 20211 comment

Soulful US folk singer Diana Jones has released a new album that delves into the struggles of immigrants fleeing terror and persecution in their homelands.

As we mark refugee week, and with 80 million people displaced around the globe – many of them vulnerable to the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic – it’s timely.

The work, “Song to a Refugee” came during a flurry of song writing triggered by the horrors she witnessed in news reports from the US border with Mexico and around the world.

“I was trying to make sense of what was happening, first of all for myself. At the same time, I felt this responsibility to report on what was happening. I wanted to boil things down to one small voice because the more personal something is, the harder it is to look away,” Ms Jones, said in a media interview.

The project received unexpected early encouragement from actress Emma Thompson.

The two women met, coincidentally, in New York, where they struck up a conversation about their mutual commitment to human rights.

Shortly afterward, Ms Jones wrote “I Wait for You,” a song about a mother from Sudan who seeks asylum in England, hoping to be reunited with her children eventually.

Ms Thompson had served on the board of the Helen Bamber Foundation, a British organisation originally established to care for Holocaust survivors but that now serves victims of human trafficking and other atrocities.

“I have an adopted son, a refugee from Rwanda, and what is most important to say about him is that his joining the family made us all immeasurably richer in every way,” Ms Thompson wrote in an email about the song.

Folk singer and activist Peggy Seeger, who appears on the album, said the power of Jones’s album is in its ability to paint vivid portraits.

“It’s so easy to discount, when you see so many refugees, the individual story — and these are individual stories. Diana’s record is a relentless hammering home of how we ignore a huge body of people who are living through the results of human cruelty and insanity,” Ms Seeger said

The album’s centrepiece, the song ‘We Believe You’,  was inspired by congressional testimony from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, detailing the dehumanizing conditions she observed at the border.

The lyrics read:

I believe your eyes are tired of crying
and all the reasons you said you came here for
I believe you lost your mother and your father
and there ain’t no sleeping on a concrete floor

Jones wrote and recorded the material for ‘Song to a Refugee’ when President Donald Trump was in office. But the nightmarish realities the album evokes speak as poignantly today.

See a video of the song here: