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Music Review: Reclaim Your Voice

Reclaim Your Voice is an excellent CD recently produced by Andy Busuttil of Blue Mountain Sound.

I have been listening to this CD and I love it. The music is stunning – the CD includes songs in a variety of musical styles, performed, played and produced by some very talented Australian musicians. Each song tells its own story – stories of courage, pain, betrayal and hope.

Andy Busuttil used his studio, Blue Mountain Sound, and has done a wonderful job in recording, mixing and mastering the 17 songs and one poem on this CD.

Contributors include Celine Yap, Spike Flynn, Peter Miller-Robinson, Christina Mimmocchi, Ben Scott, Chris Wheeler, Tony Eardley and Jade Leslie, hip-hop artist Benny Iota, roots performer A Mark Lucas, international combo The Bridge Project, Liz Frencham, Rachel Hoare, Getano Ban, Kavisha Mazzella, Blindman’s Holiday, Pin Rada and Matt Stonehouse, The Firedrakes (aka Ali and Cam Gibbs), Renaissance player of repute Andrew Lambkin (aka The Heather Mile), folk specialists Shortis and Simpson, and Iranian poet Hossein Babahmaadi (an inmate on Manus Island for three months).

These talented musos have donated their brilliant, moving, heart-rending and powerful songs and all proceeds from the CD go to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne.

“Home” by Sydney-based singer-songwriter A Mark Lucas gives a voice to those illegally detained by corrupt and abusive regimes. His lyrics bring us right inside the heart of someone longing for home, for freedom and dignity. Lucas has a potent and evocative voice, the tone of his voice is exceptional, and I’ll listen to more of his music after hearing this piece.

Kavisha Mazzella’s celestial song “May I Be a Raft” is a prayer for refugees inspired by the Bodhisattvas prayer of Shantideva, an 8th-century Indian poet and philosopher. Daughter of a refugee, Mazzella’s clear, melodious voice ebbs and flows through this song like the sea sounds which lap and flow through this recording.

A great version of Alistair Hulett’s song “Behind Barbed Wire”, arranged by Linda Marr, is performed by Blindman’s Holiday: Clarita Derwent, Linda Marr, Helen Rivero and Christina Mimmocchi. Their haunting voices weave in and out of this this song, this version is vibrant and soulful.

As well as soul, this CD has some punchy numbers. “My Brother’s Keeper” by the Firedrakes, is powerful, combative, challenging. Ali Gibbs’ deep, rich voice is a pleasure to listen to, while her message is confronting. Getano Ban, a singer and songwriter of Torres Strait Islander background, pumps out a funky take on cheap sloganeering in his cheeky song “Stop Da Boats”.

“Taken”, written and sung by Tony Eardley, backed by Rachel Hoare, is a humane anthem, wondering: “How long must we wait to walk this land together?” “The Incident”, written and performed by Peter Miller-Robinson, is a gutsy and earthy song of protest. Miller-Robinson’s deep voice pulsates, his lyrics are stirring and compelling.

I like Ben Scott, and his song “The Wild Unknown”, which is about the MG99, a boatload of Vietnamese refugees. This could be a traditional song, Ben’s style is conversational and his delivery understated. This song tells a story old and new – Ben contrasts the past, more civilised treatment of Vietnamese refugees with today’s brutal response.

I haven’t mentioned all of the musicians and songs from this CD. But last tracks include songs by Christina Mimmocchi, Christine Wheeler and Celine Yap. I could listen to these three women any time. Christina’s song “The Journey” is sung with honesty and integrity. She is backed by a number of musicians who perform elsewhere on this CD. The gentle layering of voices and instruments gives a sensitivity and strength to this beautiful piece. Christina speaks for many of us who watch with horror as politicians continue to enact dangerous and inhumane policies.

I’m glad Christine Wheeler’s song, “Where is Freedom Now?” has been included. This incredible song is set in Woomera, and captures the loneliness, the anguish and the despair of those isolated in detention. Christine based the song on the diary of an activist who, after camping out in the desert for several weeks, managed to interview several detainees and smuggle his notebook out. Christine Wheeler deservedly won the Musicoz 2003 award for best song in the folk category for this song, and it, like all the other songs on this CD, deserves to be heard.

Celine Yap’s song “Be Brave” is a remarkable finale. Celine Yap has an exquisite voice and this song soars with hope and strength. This song has been written for refugees and is compassionate and perceptive. Celine Yap is a remarkable young activist and singer, and has the ability to inspire and empower through her intelligent and compassionate lyrics.

Andy Busuttil is to be commended for initiating and producing this CD, for inspiring so many talented musicians to come on board, and for creating such a professional and uplifting product. Through this CD, he and the contributing musicians have already raised more than $7000 for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. He has also given a powerful voice to those musicians and music lovers who want to stop the punishment of asylum seekers. And, as Andy says, “ music is power”.

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