The British Red Cross is highlighting the plight of refugees on their soon to be released album The Long Road.
Featuring contributions from Kindness, Robert Plant, Scroobius Pip, Tinariwen, Didier Kisala, and Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, The Long Road sees the artists pairing up with individual refugees to help them tell their personal stories. The album's producer Ethan Johns explained that the intent was to put the stories into some context for listeners to help others understand the humanity behind the title of 'refugee'. Uniting a diverse group of artists with one common goal, The Long Road blends a variety of different genres to tell the story of suffering and new beginnings.
The Long Road opens with Tinariwen's "Kek Algahalam Mas Tasossam (Why Is The World Silent)," a traditional number from the Grammy Award-winning group of Taureg musicians. A vibrant instrumentation transports listeners with its uplifting melodies and striding rhythm.
Spoken word artist Scroobius Pip teams up with Congolese-born Didier Kisala on the more restrained "Who Are You." A simple string instrumentation sets the scene for the performance, which sees the duo singing back and forth while telling the story of a young Congolese refugee in the United Kingdom. The track expresses the pain the refugee faces as he becomes "an enemy in my own homeland / turned in a moment from a friend to a nomad."
As the track progresses, Kisala and Pip's vocals become more impassioned, and they express the struggles of adjusting to a new life. "Who Are You" recognizes the plight of living in a foreign country where you are not always welcome. Scroobius Pip describes the reception refugees face, explaining that the young man moved from "country that wants to kill me to a new place that treats me like I'm guilty." You can sense the frustration as the track builds to a fever pitch, and Pip's vocals are lost in an angry static representative of refugees being burned by a fire that they did not ignite.
Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, "Africa's most inspirational band" make a plea for "World Peace" over another vibrant production. "We talk about peace, we want peace everywhere" the band proclaims over the summery strings and gently swaying rhythm. The track is a bright spot between harrowing personal tales, and a revelation of the power of music to create a sense of community and home regardless of where you are. Refugees themselves, the All Stars reveal the strife of losing their homes, and they urge the world to make moves to do away with war and strife. The group encourages listeners to express hope in the face of suffering and to never stop moving towards peace.
Iconic UK singer Robert Plant's The Long Road collaboration, "The Blanket of Night", sees the artist channel the uncertainty of leaving home. Set over a tense production, Plant tells the tale of a refugee couple traveling away from their homeland by sea. The couple have placed their faith in the ocean to take them to a better opportunity; however, Plant acknowledges that the ocean could "save us or take us for its own."
A consuming sense of guilt overwhelms the track, as Plant expresses the refugee's sense of responsibility for their situation. You can feel the pain and confusion in his voice when Plant looks for guidance from above, asking "my angel, could I have steered us clear."
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The album ends with the project's lead single, Kindness' "A Retelling." On the track, Kindness (Adam Bainbridge) tells the story of a refugee named Ayman. In 2011, Ayman and a group of his friends decided to document and share footage of the first pro-democracy protests in Syria; ultimately, their decision to do so turned them into government targets and forced Ayman to flee the country to Glasgow.
"A Retelling" focuses in on some of the emotions that the refugee and his young family experienced fleeing their home country. Distinctive memories of seeing their flat destroyed and witnessing his young boys lose their accents paints the picture of a family whose lives have been forcibly uprooted. It is with both a sense of relief and regret that Kindness pronounces "here in the twilight a life begins," symbolizing the end of their old lives and the beginning of a new one many miles from home. Aural synths over sparse keys emphasize the family's story, especially as Kindness' vocals intertwine with pulsing production. Underneath the emotional story is a subtle but steady drumline that provides the performance with its own heartbeat and a real sense of humanity.
Overall, The Long Road steadfastly tells the tale of refugees, breathing life into the words that before now most people were only able to read. The artists involved inject the performances with a new sense of meaning, expounding upon the raw emotions that the refugees face.
The story told on The Long Road is one of surviving in the face of suffering, and, as a result, there is a sense of hope that pervades the darkness. The album builds a sense of culture and offers a new sense of depth to a very real crisis that too few people truly comprehend.
The Long Road is available for purchase on March 4. Pre-order your copy HERE.