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Orchestre des Réfugiés et Amis bring foreign flavours to Belfast lunchtime

Orchestre des Réfugiés et Amis

REVIEW - The Irish News

Orchestre des Refugies et Amis

Out To Lunch Festival


IT’S a pleasing thought that just as Mr Trump was being inaugurated, there was an inspiring and inclusive gig taking place on Friday lunchtime in the Black Box, Belfast, as part of this year’s Out to Lunch Festival. L’Orchestre des Refugies et Amis is a loose collection of singers and musicians who since July have been working on an eclectic, multicultural programme.

The resulting hour’s show was impressive, topped and tailed by a musical setting of an Edgar Allan Poe poem, A Dream within a Dream. Copies were on our tables, backed by an image of the ocean, referencing recent refugee tragedies. But here we heard and saw survivors’ culture. Opening with the Poe lyric voiced above a subtle musical soundscape, majoring with a strong beat provided by drums, maracas and other percussion, the concert showcased some real talent and introduced the enthusiastic audience to some new repertoire.

We heard decent Sudanese pop for example – a couple of romantic songs, as charismatic performer Amin explained. His voice has the tenor brio you associate with crooners round the world and he sang over an energetic beat with style and good moves, channelling the school of Bryan Ferry.

Southern Indian singer Amita, who is studying opera, delivered several numbers from the subcontinent with real feeling. Her account of the rain song in which a wife is waiting for her husband’s return as the long-awaited deluge descends was enjoyable. The 10-strong band’s accompaniment, on guitars, drums, maracas, sitar and keyboard, indicated this was more monsoon than a Belfast downpour.

One of the stars of the show was 20-year-old Sindar, a disabled man who recently arrived in Northern Ireland from Syria. He confidently belted out a couple of pieces in a singing voice that to European ears sounded exotic, the sort of Middle Eastern ululation you associate with the call to prayer.

Near the end Joby Fox, one of the organisers, gave us an effective rendering of Bob Dylan’s sublime All Along The Watchtower, complete with mouth organ and guitar.

He works for Beyond Skin, with the Arts Council, one of the supporters of a project which produced a musical experience that transported us somewhere different while introducing us to the new Belfast.

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