Friday, 3 April 2015

Survivors of war and torture united by music - Stone Flowers

Stone Flowers members/courtesy of Stone Flowers

Stone Flowers – a musical group comprised of war and torture survivors – is releasing its new album Ngunda, proving that something beautiful can come out of unimaginable violence.

I liked working on this story because Stone Flowers is more than the sum of its parts: it is a music group, producing beautiful, uplifting music, but it is also a therapeutic and political project. Members have experienced torture and terrible losses - of home, family, culture and even of the person they were before. They write about these difficult topics, along with hope and resilience, in the languages and rhythms of their home countries, which include Iran, Kuwait, Sri Lanka, Sudan and DRC.  

Music helps reduce the trauma and gives survivors a way of speaking out against human rights abuses.  It also allows a connection with home and a more positive association with the loss of that home.

 As Stone Flowers members all bring their own musical heritages to the process, the result is rich and unusual - a cornucopia of styles and influences, where Arabic poetry mixed with West African rhythms and English folk segued into Caribbean and Tamil songs.

The name of the group, Stone Flowers, comes from a Persian folk song the group performed for their first album.  They liked the name because it evokes both strength and fragility, and also because it had Manchester overtones (i.e. Stone Roses), where the group is based. 

Created four years ago, Stone Flowers is supported by the charities Musicians without Borders UK and Freedom from Torture North West.  The group is performing life at many events and is now recording a new album, ‘Ngunda’, which will be launched at Amnesty International HQ in London on June 5.  The album takes its name from one of the ten tracks: Ngunda Azali Mutu, meaning 'A refugee is a human being' in the Bantu language Lingala.

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