By Liz Walsh
This past Sunday night, music drawing on genres and styles from around the world could be heard inside the walls of l’Alimentation Générale. In between the audience dancing to everything from Afrobeats to French hip-hop to a Colombian-Brazilian blend, SciencesPo Refugee Help (SPRH) and Collectif Musiques en Mouvement shone light on the ability of music to display the diversity of immigration in France in its most vibrant colors. All funds from the event went to SPRH, an organization founded by Sciences Po students to improve the living conditions of refugees in Paris.
The night kicked off with Wax, a jazz trio whose members push the limits of contemporary jazz by blending styles from diverse musical heritages. Next were the former members of Beat on Ville, who performed Spanish and Latin songs that reflect different lifestyles from a range of continents. They brought together a post-punk take on traditional Latin sounds, while making use of some electronic improvisation. They were followed by Mixtura, a Latin group mixing styles from Brazil and the Caribbean, including sounds reminiscent of samba, bossanova, and cha cha. Raspa Fly picked up the beat with Colombian cumbia, featuring a handful of musicians from Peru. Representatives from Singa France showed up to share a project that teaches and creates music with refugees, French nationals and French residents in order to encourage integration and solidarity. Members of AFM teamed up with a rep from Do the Red Thing and two musicians from Monkuti to deliver a rap set that featured lyrics in French, English and Arabic. Monkuti rounded out the evening with Afrobeats and voodoo jazz; their eleven musicians featured vocalists, a saxophonist, trumpeters, eclectic drum beats, and more.
The evening was made memorable by the artists, as they mingled with the crowd both before and throughout the evening. Monkuti showed up with wine, baguettes and charcuterie, but also imported white rum and tropical punch. The Peruvian musicians of Raspa Fly insisted on taking photos with a cheerful crowd during interludes, and one could spot the members of Beat on Ville dancing in the front for most of the evening. Following Monkuti’s set, neither the crowd nor the artists were ready to call it quits, leading to an impromptu dance party with lively drums keeping the pulse.
Prior to the showcase, Collectif Musiques en Mouvement released a collaborative Spotify playlist in the spirit of collecting sounds and tastes from musicians around the globe. The playlist includes artists such as Songhoy Blues, a punk and blues band from Mali that was signed to Atlantic Records last year and has since received celebratory reviews from The New York Times, while also playing at festivals like Glastonbury and Bonnaroo. Also on the playlist is Chancha Via Circuito, who uses modern production techniques to blend a wide range of South American beats. The artist even climbed a Mayan pyramid before dawn to record the sound of howler monkeys. The playlist remains open for collaboration.
The event was an opportunity for music to encourage cross-cultural exchange. Throughout the night, participants spoke in different languages, dancing to rhythms from around the world and learning lyrics originating from thousands of miles away. Refugees who have benefitted from SPRH’s services were also in attendance, and overall the event raised more than 2200€, all of which will go to the organization in order to help ease what is otherwise a very difficult transition for those arriving in Paris to seek asylum. SPRH offers assistance to refugees by explaining the asylum process, helping refugees navigate administrative documentation, language translation, French lessons, providing practical goods such as hygiene kits and sleeping bags, and social activities, which help refugees get to know Paris and improve their quality of life. For more information, visit http://www.refugeehelp.fr/.
Stay tuned in the meantime by dropping a jam into the Spotify playlist, and who knows … BAB III anyone?