Music, Community and Connection

The first edition of Musicommunity was a great success. UNHCR Malta reflects on a lively night of music and dance, which was organised by Hal Far Outreach at the Peace Lab in Hal Far.

Various acts took to the stage and delighted the audience at Musicommunity.
© UNHCR/Inigo Taylor

Applause and delight filled the night sky when Fittinga Dè Geniūš, in a shiny silver jacket and with a beaming smile, got up on stage and immediately had the crowd singing along to one of his songs. On Friday 27th September, the South Sudanese asylum-seeker and afrobeat artist formed part of the eclectic line up of Musicommunity, an intercultural night launched by the NGO Ħal Far Outreach, and with the support of UNHCR Malta.


With performers from the refugee and migrant community, as well as Maltese acts, Musicommunity was a truly immersive experience. It kicked off with a Flamenco performance by guitarist Alejandro de Chacon and dancer Deborah Falzon. Deborah was also responsible for putting together the list of acts at Musicommunity, and from hip-hop and dancehall, to drumming and breakdancing, she did a great job of selecting a diverse array of talent.

Acts included Trakadum drumming band and their hypnotic, energetic rhythms, as well as the impressive, acrobatic breakdancing moves of Street Elements.

Some of the refugees and migrants performing were Salami Taiye, Christian Brown, Sun la Sun, Mekon and Baye Fall – each with their own unique style of music and with a contagious energy that elevated the positive atmosphere as the night progressed. On the decks, DJ Shays made sure to finish the night off with some bouncy beats.

There was also an artistic element to Musicommunity, with street artists providing paints and inviting people to contribute to creating a large and colourful art piece on a big wooden board.

IMG_1007

© UNHCR/Inigo Taylor

IMG_1215

© UNHCR/Inigo Taylor

IMG_1357

© UNHCR/Inigo Taylor

IMG_1633

© UNHCR/Inigo Taylor

IMG_1686

© UNHCR/Inigo Taylor

IMG_1718

© UNHCR/Inigo Taylor

IMG_1852

© UNHCR/Inigo Taylor

IMG_2007

© UNHCR/Inigo Taylor

IMG_1239

© UNHCR/Inigo Taylor

IMG_1847

© UNHCR/Inigo Taylor

 

One of the highlight acts was 19-year-old Fittinga De Genius and Nyewuo Family, who gave a vibrant performance. Hailing from South Sudan and having only arrived in Malta from Libya three months ago, Fittinga is no stranger to the stage. In fact, before he fled the war in his country he used to perform and record music, a passion of his since the age of 12.

UNHCR asked Fittinga what it felt like to perform now that he is in Malta, and among fellow asylum-seekers:

“This was my first time performing in Malta or in Europe. But before I had performed in Africa. Actually some of the people who performed with me here are my fans. We came here in different boats, and they just met me here in the [Ħal Far] camp. Some of them I met in detention.”

“The way I felt on stage? I was too excited. [The people here] have good protection now, no one is going to harm them again. It is not like in their country, where someone can just kill you like that. When I saw them here, I was very happy.”

Fittinga De Genius, 19, performer at Musicommunity

 

Fittinga hopes more music nights will take place in the future.

“Music is good because it can unite many communities together, and it can make peace and love… It was a good event, I was really happy. Even my friends, they didn’t sleep for the whole night. They were very happy.”

 

Fittinga De Genius performing at Musicommunity. Fittinga is an afrobeat artist from South Sudan, who fled his home and arrived in Malta in 2019. © UNHCR/Inigo Taylor

 

The stone amphitheatre and leafy gardens of the Peace Lab provided the perfect backdrop for Musicommunity. Located just opposite Ħal Far Tent Village, Peace Lab is run by Fr. Dionysius Mintoff, who has been providing shelter for asylum-seekers here for over 15 years.

Fr. Mintoff was pleased to welcome everyone to Peace Lab, and contribute to alleviating the often stressful reality of people trying to rebuild their lives.

This is an outlook shared by Ħal Far Outreach, the organisation which organised the initiative. A new NGO trying to support the increasing number of newly arrived asylum-seekers, their activities include running English classes and an information hub in Ħal Far. NGO Ħal Far Outreach is hoping that opportunities for people to express their talent and enjoy themselves will become more frequent, while bringing different communities together.

Marloes Arbouw, one of the founding members of Ħal Far Outreach, explained the motivation behind Musicommunity:

“Our biggest inspiration for the event were the people in Ħal Far. People often express their love for music and dancing. There are no such events organised in the Ħal Far area. Therefore, we decided to set-up this initiative.”

“One of our aims is to foster social inclusion and support the integration of migrants in the Maltese community. We wanted to organise an event where people from different backgrounds would come together and create a feeling of belonging. What is a better way to do such a thing, than through music and dance?”

Marloes Arbouw, Ħal Far Outreach

These sentiments definitely came to fruition on the evening. When the night ended, people left with smiles on their faces. Ħal Far Outreach is committed to making sure that Musicommunity can become a frequent event, and that it will foster inclusion, enhance and promote talent, and provide a vibrant space for people to enjoy themselves again and again.

 


Background note: Supporting projects that promote social inclusion

UNHCR’s overall objective in Malta is to advocate for access to protection on appropriate terms, and to promote durable solutions, specifically social inclusion, for persons of concern. Our work involves liaising with governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, strengthening refugee and migrant community organisations and collaborating on events or projects that bring local and refugee communities together or create awareness on refugee issues.

UNHCR is pleased to be supporting NGO Ħal Far Outreach with Musicommunity, an initiative aimed at promoting interaction between different groups and creating a unified and enjoyable atmosphere in Ħal Far. Ħal Far Outreach together with Association for Justice, Equality and Peace have also opened an Information Hub – located at the Peace Lab – where many newly arrived asylum-seekers reach out for practical guidance on things such as job-seeking and available support services; helping them rebuild their life in Malta.

UNHCR also thanks and commends Fr. Mintoff and the Peace Lab for years of continuously providing shelter and support for vulnerable asylum-seekers, and always looks forward to further collaboration.