Professional musicians have recorded an album with migrants from the Calais Jungle. The musician behind the project hopes the album will show a “different side” to the migrants.
“The Calais Sessions”, a “benefit album” released on the 29th of July, was recorded in the Jungle migrant camp in Calais, France, as a collaboration between professional musicians and 20 migrants, reports The New York Times.
The 13-track album is said to contain music ranging from the Middle East, to the Balkans, to Spain, performed mostly by amateurs.
One contributor to the album, “Kasper”, is a 24-year-old Iraqi migrant. He was a jewellery maker in Baghdad and an amateur rapper before he embarked on the route to Europe last year. After a journey that lasted three weeks, he arrived in Calais in October.
“Kasper”, who would have travelled through several safe countries in which to claim asylum, is waiting in France, another safe country, with the UK as his intended destination.
In the ten years since the Jungle has been in Calais, charities, musicians, celebrities, and artists have made their way to the camp offering “cultural activities” such as theatres, concerts, and art schools.
The individual behind the project is musician Vanessa Lucas-Smith, a cellist in the Allegri Quartet in London.
Ms. Lucas-Smith and other musicians visited the Jungle in September, bringing with them instruments from the migrants’ home countries such as the “vaguely guitar-like oud, a flute called a ney, and a daf, a Kurdish drum that would allow refugees to rediscover familiar sounds” – the activists missing out on an opportunity to integrate the newcomers by encouraging them to explore more Western instruments.
“When you take the instruments to people, it sounds as if it’s bread or water, or coal, something they really, really need,” Ms. Lucas-Smith said.
It took 200 people, including volunteers from Britain and Spain, to record the album. Most of the recording took place in February, when French authorities were dismantling parts of the camp, moving the migrants into other cleaner, warmer, safer parts of the Jungle and to other official migrant centres across France – “a decision that affected some musicians featured on the album”.
A charity that will benefit from the sales of the album is Citizens UK, a “community organiser” that describes its activities as: “organis[ing] communities to act together for power, social justice and the common good”. One of its current projects is to sign up landlords to their “homes for resettled refugees register” in their commitment to find 5,000 houses for Syrian migrants in Britain.
Ms. Lucas-Smith said that “the project sought to show a different side of those living in the Jungle”.
A different side of the Jungle camp was seen most recently when a night of violence in early August in Calais saw drivers threatened with a chainsaw, lorries firebombed, and cab windows smashed by migrants who were trying to break in to vehicles in attempts to illegally enter Britain.