Album Review: Various Artists – The Long Road EP [British Red Cross, 4th March 2016]

Few months ago we met and spent a really great time with Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars. They have just got on board an intriguing project coordinated and promoted by the British Red Cross which has been released today. The Long Road EP is a significant work that gathers six well-known musicians together to raise awareness and collect funds for the refugee crisis.

Through the five tracks of the EP (available on Audio CD, Vinyl and download), music personalities like Robert Plant, Tinariwen, Kindness, Scroobius Pip, Didier Kisala and the aforementioned Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars will put into music the direct experiences of asylum seekers and refugees in the U.K. They will refer to, sing and play refugee’s tales and experiences, showing that music can touch consciousness and make an effective difference.

All the artists involved directly met, chatted and exchanged their feelings and impressions of life with migrants, displaced persons and asylum seekers. They listened to their stories and eventually composed or rearranged songs inspired by them. That’s how Robert Plant came to cover Elbow’s tune ‘Blanket of the Night’, which directly refers to the desperate sea journey of a refugee couple. Meanwhile, Tinariwen reflected on their own life experiences in Algerian refugee camps and composed an original and plaintive piece of desert blues entitled ‘Why the world is silent?’ Similarly, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars recalled the time they spent in Guinea as displaced persons and were stimulated by the story of a Georgian lady who escaped the Russo-Georgian war in 2008. It was included on the EP ‘World Peace’, and is a song that makes its listeners think about the crisis even with its light-hearted and upbeat mood.

Meanwhile, the British rapper Scroopius Pip and Congolese singer Didier Kisala narrated through their sharp rhymes and effectively voice the story of Ramelle. She was forced to flee DR Congo because of her activism back in 2003 and after spending twelve years in the U.K. without refugee status, has only recently been granted the right of asylum. The last track on the album was written by Adam Bainbridge, better known as Kindness. Kindness was inspired by the life of a Syrian refugee called Ayman. The two met in London few months ago and spoke for several hours about Ayman’s “last few years of life” -the war in Syria, his escape from Damascus and new life in Glasgow thousands of miles away from his family. The outcome of the conversation is a moving and atmospheric electropop tune entitled ‘A Retelling’, which captures some of the urgency and reality of those events.

The Long Road EP is not simply a charity album for a just cause. It is a snapshot of refugees’ and asylum seeker’s real-lives. It is a work which, through its five chapters, gives voice to the thousands of people who are risking their lives everyday to reach a safer future, while aiming to make their long road a little shorter.