Putting the setbacks of life as a refugee aside, Afghan musician Rahmatullah steps up to the mic and sings.
“Appreciate, love each other, be kind to each other, we need to help and support, because love is our treasure,” he intones.
A few bars later Aura, a refugee musician from Myanmar, belts out the chorus, swaying to the beat: “It is time, it’s our time, let’s do it, it is time to shine a light…”
The pair are among 24 refugee and asylum-seeking musicians finding their groove again in India with the help of composer and Grammy award winner Ricky Kej.
In collaboration with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in India and the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace (MGIEP), Kej launched the #RickyforRefugee initiative in June to mentor the budding refugee musicians and give them the opportunity to showcase their talent.
Best known for his hit album ‘Winds of Samsara’, Kej also rallied support from the Indian music industry with artists like Neeti Mohan, Salim Merchant, and Aditya Narayan lending their voices to the song – Shine Your Light – which is launched today.
"When the refugee musicians heard the finished song for the first time their eyes were filled with tears."
“When the refugee musicians heard the finished song for the first time their eyes were filled with tears,” said Kej.
The song, performed in four different languages (English, Dari, Farsi, and Pashto), invites listeners to celebrate our shared humanity. For Rahmatullah, whose budding career in classical music was interrupted when he was forced to flee his native Afghanistan, it has offered a chance to get back to music.
“The collaboration with Ricky has motivated me to restart and pursue my singing more passionately,” he said.
For Aura, it was a master class in songwriting.
“Although I am familiar with composing and singing songs, this mentorship has taught me the process and structure of song production in its entirety.”