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Asylum seeker band praises 'amazing' support from Cork after securing €5,000 grant

The group is made up of nine musicians from nine different countries.

citadel-2 Source: Citadel

A BAND FORMED from residents of the Kinsale Road Direct Provision centre in Cork has been awarded a €5,000 grant by the Cork Arts Office.

One of the band’s leaders, Roos Demol, has acclaimed the move as a wonderful gesture of support from the city. 

The project had very humble beginnings. Demol and her fellow founder Norbert Nkengurutse simply wanted to collect musical instruments and organise music lessons for the people in the centre .

After successfully gathering guitars and keyboards Demol, who has worked in world music for years, quickly saw the potential in the diverse range of voices and the band started to take shape.

Before long it boasted nine musicians from nine different countries with each performing music from their own country of origin.

“You could be listening to a Ukrainian singer accompanied by a Burundian and an Indian playing guitar,” Demol said.

Surprisingly communication hasn’t been an issue for a group with such a diverse range of backgrounds.

Demol explains that when language barriers pop up they quickly sort things out with gestures and singing and communicating through the music.

citadel-3 Source: Cork City Council

“The energy that comes out of this group is amazing,” she said.

“We practice in the Direct Provision centre and the other residents come along and watch. When they first appear they sit at the back of the room but the next time they move a bit closer and then in a couple of weeks they’re at the table with us playing along with a precussion instrument.”

Of course, depression is a problem in Direct Provision so it’s somewhere people can come and relax and let it all go. It’s fantastic for everyone.

Dubbed Citadel, in a nod to where people find sanctuary in times of war, the group played its first live event outside the centre at Bull McCabe’s bar on the Kinsale Road last year.

The buzz generated from that show saw them pick up gigs at Cork Culture night, the International Guitar Festival in Clonakilty, refugee week in UCC and many other events.

With the help of the grant they now plan to tour Ireland playing for residents in Direct Provision centres around the country and will hold workshops with Niwel Tsumbu, a guitarist from the Democratic Republic of Congo who has lived in Ireland for over a decade.

They are also working with a Saleem Nze, of Selector Slim Productions, who will film the progress of the band to make a documentary.

Demol believes it’s the first time a local council has given financial support to a band composed of asylum seekers.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be supported by your local city,” she said. “To have that backing is fantastic and it shows that Cork is serious about being a city of sanctuary”.

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Ceimin Burke

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