Victorious Festival to host world premiere of new refugee musical project

The musical project created by a group of refugees is to receive its live debut at the Victorious Festival.

Friday, 17th August 2018, 11:12 am
Updated Sunday, 2nd September 2018, 10:08 pm
Duncan Webb, John Falsetto, Mohamed Sarrar and Ammar Haj Ahmad are Sounds of Refuge, who are playing at Victorious Festival 2018 on the World Music Stage. Picture by Matt Mysko

Sounds of Refuge is the debut world music album from John Falsetto, Mohamed Sarrar and Ammar Haj Ahmad fusing Zimbabwean, Sudanese and Syrian music, spoken word and poetry.

Composed and performed with traditional African instruments mbira, darbuka and djembe, the three musicians, together with special guest Duncan Webb on piano and keys, recorded the album at London's iconic Abbey Road Studios in summer 2018.

The album will receive its world premiere live performance on the World Music Stage at the festival on Sunday, where John, Mohamed and Ammar will be joined by Panashe Kanyangarara on vocals and guitar, Shaba on bongos, Duncan on keys and Pip Carr on guitar.

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Good Chance, the campaigning theatre charity, first met Mohamed in the refugee camp known as The Jungle in Calais in 2015, where he became integral to the camp's then newly-built Good Chance Theatre, a temporary theatre of hope promoting freedom of expression, creativity and dignity for everyone.

There he met Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson, Good Chance's artistic directors, who have since gone on to write a play called The Jungle, based on their experiences living in Calais for seven months from September 2015.

The play was created alongside refugees from across the world now settled permanently in the UK including John and Ammar, as well as Mohamed and other former residents of the Jungle.

All three perform in the production; John is also the play's musical director and composer.

John and Mohamed began writing music together in their dressing room for The Jungle and the idea for Sounds of Refuge was born from a desire to challenge preconceptions about refuge and being a refugee.

The Jungle is a National Theatre and Young Vic co-production with Good Chance Theatre written by Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson and directed by Stephen Daldry (The Crown, Billy Elliot) and Justin Martin.

The production has since transferred to the Playhouse Theatre in the West End where it is currently playing until November 3, before it transfers to St Ann's Warehouse in New York. The play has received a host of five-star reviews, and a South Bank Show Award.

John Falsetto says: '˜Sounds of Refuge is a journal and expression of thoughts and feelings in raw sound. The kind that one writes when journeying far from home. Performing at the Victorious Festival couldn't come at a better time because, so to speak, sounds of refuge ARE 'victorious'!

'˜Mohamed, Ammar and I are excited to share this humble offering which was set to flight by Good Chance. 

'˜There's nothing better that brings people together than the ability express artistically.'

Mohamed Sarrar adds: '˜I remember the first time I met John with his incredible playing of that lovely instrument [the mbira].

'˜We were sharing our music and styles together. Since that time, I have loved doing something together and sharing it with everyone, and having Ammar with his beautiful words like roses in this garden adding beauty to it. It is a pleasure to do this project with Good Chance.'

Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson, artistic directors of Good Chance, wrote in a joint statement: '˜Music is most powerful when it draws from across the world.

'˜Sounds of Refuge is a collage of influences and traditions that will introduce listeners to a brand-new sound.

'˜Good Chance is very proud to be associated with its production.'

The album, Sounds of Refuge, is released on August 31


World Music Stage, Victorious Festival, Southsea

Sunday, August 26