Friday October 31st, 2014. Refugees at the belgian federal asylum seekers center Klein Kasteeltje/Petit Chateau in Brussels were invited to gather in a so called ‘phonecard party’, initiated by Recyclart at the asylum center. The people from Syria, Afganistan, Albania, Palestine, Senegal.. were helped by the dj to plug-in their phones in the mixing table and play the favourite songs they stored on their device.
The result was an at least sweaty and astonishing event, with a hard to grasp atmosphere. The festive and somehow cosmopolitan mixing of local and often unshazamable mp3 hits had a dark and hysterical side to it. Nostalgia, hope, despair, trauma, adventure, melancholy, excitement and pride,.. all this was part of the melting pot and shared in a single room.
The disco gathering was loud in every aspect: the music, the cheering and the clapping, the way people danced, laughed and sweated or sat idle on a stool and stared. Loud.
Mixed groups of arab adolescent men, african women, eastern european families with childeren and elderly people all participated in what resembled an unfamiliar wedding party. Each new song that was played introduced a different traditional or less traditional dance to the floor, which was then interpreted by the others, or simply denied in favour of cheerful improvisation.
Apart maybe from my own presence, there was nothing exotic to this confusing reality of a hysterically loud transit zone.
About the tracklist:
Not all songs could be recognized by Shazam. Actually, the most beautiful and mainly Arab songs were not. I’m still looking for people who could help identifying them.
For the tracks I could find, a quick research often showed a direct link between the status and quest of a refugee and either the lyrics or the biography of the singer: “European gipsy”, the Palestinian winner of Arab Idol 2013 singing “Raise your keffiea”, “I’m titanium, I’m bulletproof”, the Iraqi singer Hussam Al Rassam (a singer banned from Iraq by Muslim fundamentalists), Meda (an Albanian singer born in Kosovo and living in Stuttgart) etc, “taste the money – testimony” and the international polyglot release Shiki Riddim…
It is very clear however that this tracklist shows something else as well. Unsurprisingly, we a see what Henry Jenkins called pop cosmopolitanism through monocultural ‘urban’ music mixed with Bruce Sterling’s favela chic reflected by the phablets – you have lost everything material, no job or prospects, but you are wired to the gills and potentially big on facebook.. And add to that a twist of cyberbalkanization.
- Taste the money (Testimony) – P-Square
- La Nueva y La Ex – Daddy Yankee
- European Gipsy (Balkan Cigeni) – Koddok
- Ala El Koufiea – Mouhammad Assaf
- Gili Gili – Sinan Hoxha
- Shaki Riddim – Sir Lewis
- Edhe Pak – Dhurata Dora Feat. & Lumi B
- Alef Mabrook – Hussam Al Rassam
- Kar E Don, E Don – Meda
- Titanium (Alesso remix) Lyrics – David Guetta feat. Sia