Migration-themed event exudes boundless energy

Music composed in exile will be at the heart of a University event featuring performances by Glasgow-based refugees and asylum seekers.

Musicians in Exile performing at the The Grand Ole Opry, Glasgow, 2019
Musicians in Exile performing at Glasgow's The Grand Ole Opry in 2019

The evening at Old College will echo themes of cultural identity and displacement currently being explored in an exhibition at the University’s Talbot Rice Gallery.

The Musicians in Exile group will perform pieces that are inspired by work created by Australian artist Angelica Mesiti’s for her acclaimed exhibition, In the Round.

The event on 3 March, which includes a symposium focusing on music and migration, has been organised by Talbot Rice and the University’s School of Social and Political Science.

In Another Tongue will give the audience an opportunity to weigh up a range of issues, including the politics of migration, asylum pathways and non-Western musical notation

A number of University of Edinburgh academics will speak on the theme of communicating across cultural divides.

Borrowed title

The event in the Playfair Library borrows its title from Lebanese-Australian writer David Malouf’s poem, To Be Written In Another Tongue.

Mesiti’s video installation Citizens Band, which explores how migration impacts on cultural heritage, was a key part of In the Round. It features performances by four immigrant musicians.

Among them was a water drummer from Cameroon, now living in Paris, and a partially sighted Algerian Raï singer performing protest songs on the Paris Métro.

Also featured is a Mongolian throat singer on a street-corner in Sydney and a Sudanese taxi driver in Brisbane who is a prize-winning whistler.

Intimate expression

“We’re eagerly anticipating the performances by Musicians in Exile,” says Talbot Rice Gallery curator James Clegg. “This promises to be powerful and intimate expression of what is lost and gained when culture is translated.” 

Musicians in Exile was set up in 2018 to enable refugees and asylum seekers to continue their passion for music and provide them with instruments as well as a support system.

The group’s founders say it is a way of helping all involved deal with ‘the huge culture shock’ of arriving in an unfamiliar place, often after escaping war or other trauma.

Book launch

A beautiful book showcasing the works in In the Round, published by Edinburgh University Press, will be launched at the Playfair Library event.

It features essays by Mesiti and exhibition  curator Tessa Giblin. There are also contributions from musicologist Emily Doolittle, novelist and art critic Jennifer Higgie and political scientist Mihaela Mihai.

In the Round, which is on view until 5 March, features new work by Mesiti, which had been inspired by artefacts from the University of Edinburgh’s extensive cultural collections.

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Angelica Mesiti / In the Round

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