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Powerful Performance of
My Name is Lamiya: Don’t Call Me ‘Refugee’

courtesy Harmonium Choral Society, conductor, Dr. Anne Matlack

Rehearsal Recording of
SATB Voicing of Lamiya’s Song

Courtesy American School of Dubai

Mission of “My Name is Lamiya: Don’t Call Me ‘Refugee’”

Choral Consortium Commission

The Child Refugee Awareness Choral Consortium is a group of choirs and individuals bound not only by its mutual love of music, but also by a passionate determination to use its time and talents to benefit others.

The Child Refugee Awareness Choral Consortium is driven in part by MB Arts, a sole proprietorship and the publishing company of the music and projects of Michael Bussewitz-Quarm.

Intention  of Performance

Although the choirs and individuals that constitute The Child Refugee Awareness Choral Consortium come from an array of choral communities drawn from across the country and around the world, each member brings a unique and valuable set of skills, experiences and talents to the consortium. The choirs will prepare their own renditions of “My Name is Lamiya: Don’t Call Me ‘Refugee’” (or “Lamiya’s Song”) with the intention of offering a quality performance while raising awareness of the Global Refugee Crisis. We will give generously of our time and talents to master the moving and challenging music and its message.

Timeline of Season

Second Season Project Members 2017-2018 (Now Open)

October-current time: Choirs/Sponsors Express Interest

December 2017-current time: Composer/Choir Contracts signed; payments made.

($100 Project Membership Level/ $150 Project Membership Level)

January 1, 2018: Choral Scores distributed in .pdf format (or in physical format if agreed upon in the specific contract)

February-December 2018: Rehearsals, Skype Sessions; Premieres Begin

How does  “My Name is Lamiya” and “ Lamiya’s Song” connect to the Global Refugee Crisis?

The Songs of Lamiya are written to bring attention to one of the most significant and challenging issues in our world today, the global refugee crisis. Lamiya Safarova lost her home and her community in Azerbaijan when she was only nine. Her family lived in a cardboard shack by the river when she put her thoughts down in the form of a poem. The loss of her home and her community had a profound impact on Lamiya. And so did being classified as a “refugee” by her classmates in school. Her poem gives her a voice.

We will amplify her voice through the power of singing.

Open to 30 Second Season Project Members

Composer: Michael Bussewitz-Quarm

Contact: Michael at (516) 729-0970 or ListenAfresh@gmail.com to join in singing

Why create this song?

There are many reasons. First and foremost, there is great power in a name. If you read of a tragedy in the paper, you feel an instance of sadness, but that moment is often fleeting. If you know the victim by their name, the tragedy touches deeper emotions, and we are more aware of the event and its implications. We seek out the cause by asking such questions as “Why did this happen?” or “How did this happen?” With these questions, we take the first steps towards understanding and, hopefully, being part of a solution. I want to create a community that is deeply aware, and one that dares to ask “why?” and “how?”. And by listening, we may support those with the ability to solve the issues that lead to the struggle of the refugee.

We are raising awareness! The refugee crisis is the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world. Millions of children suffer from political warfare, tribal warfare, lack of natural resources, especially water. The desperate need of food and water for survival creates a need for a powerful group to come in and provide these resources. There are powerful groups that provide food and water for purely humanitarian reasons. There are other groups that provide food and water for malevolent reasons.

Also, together we will be providing a wonderful gift for Lamiyya Safarova and her family in Azerbaijan. 50% of all commission funding will be gifted to Lamiyya. I bet Lamiyya, at age nine, would have never thought her poem would one day not only be sung by choral groups around the world bringing attention to the struggle of the refugee, but also provide financial relief for her family!

Don’t Call Me “Refugee”

My Name is Lamiya

by Betty Blair

“Refugee! Refugee! You’re a refugee!” The kids on the playground started calling names and teasing the new girl in their school. Lamiya Safarova [pronounced lahm-YAH sa-fa-ROH-vah] looked up at them and started to cry.

It wasn’t her fault that bombs and missiles had been aimed at her little village of Jabrayil (pronounced ja-brah-YIL) in Azerbaijan and that her family had been afraid that one might explode on their house. It wasn’t her fault that the neighboring village, Khalafli, had already been burned to the ground or that enemy soldiers had threatened to kill everybody who didn’t leave, or that kids were being kidnapped and held hostage until their parents could pay huge sums of ransom money to get them back.

It wasn’t her fault that her family had barely been able to bring anything from their home when they fled, or that she was poor now and didn’t have pretty clothes to wear or that she was new at this school and didn’t have many friends.

Lamiya often found herself daydreaming about her old village where tulips grew in the springtime, hugging the high mountains of the Caucasus. She often wondered what had happened to the friends she had left behind. Were they still alive and if so, where were they living now? Would she ever see them again? And what about the house that her father had just built? Was it still standing? Had everything inside been looted and destroyed? Or had it been burned to the ground like so many others houses?

It wasn’t her fault that there was a war with Armenians who were trying to push the Azer-baijanis off their land, and that nearly a million people like herself had had to flee their homes and find a new place to live, new friends, new schools, new jobs. So when the kids called her “refugee”, it hurt her very deeply.

In English, “refugee” means a person who is searching for protection and safety-a shelter from danger. The same word, “gachgin” [pronounced gotch-GIN], in the Azeri language also carries with it the idea of “runner,” meaning a person who has run away from something-a person who isn’t brave and didn’t try to fight but just ran away. But Lamiya knew that wasn’t true. And that’s why she started crying when they called her “refugee, refugee”. She also knew that the kids wouldn’t understand what she had lived through. It was too different from their own lives. Baku was too far away from Jabrayil. It would take you five or six hours to drive there by car. How could kids really understand the war that was going on over there?

That night, Lamiya went home and started writing a poem. She knew that she would burst inside if she didn’t write it down. She called the poem, “Don’t Call Me Refugee.” She was nine years old at the time.

The Magic of Words

Lamiya learned to read when she was five years old. She has learned two different alphabets because Azerbaijan has a new alphabet called the “Latin alphabet” which looks very much like English. The old alphabet is called “Cyrillic” which looks very different and has more letters. Cyrillic is used for writing the Russian language and was used in Azerbaijan before it became a free country in 1991.

Because the Latin alphabet is so new in Azerbaijan, very few children’s books have been printed using it. It costs lots of money to print new books. So kids in Azerbaijan who really like to read have to learn the new alphabet and the old alphabet, too. Lamiya used to borrow books from the school library in Jabrayil, especially books of poetry.
When she was eight years old, she started writing her own poems. “Mulberry Tree” was the first one-it was about the mulberry tree in their garden at home in Jabrayil. Now Lamiya is 12 years old and has written hundreds of poems about many different topics.

Her family loves her to write poetry. In fact, her mom arranged to have Lamiya’s younger sister and brother sleep together with their parents in one room so that Lamiya could work quietly all by herself late at night in the only other room in their tiny house. It’s a simple room with only a bed and one dim, naked light bulb hanging from the ceiling.

Night after night, Lamiya starts working at 2 or 3 in the morning, writing the things that she feels in her heart. She says that when she writes, she has a calm sleep and beautiful dreams. When she doesn’t write, her dreams get “mixed up” and she doesn’t feel at ease.

When it rains and the roof leaks, her mother spreads a plastic sheet over the beds so no one will get wet. Once, Lamiya’s mother woke up in the middle of the night, went into Lamiya’s room and found her sitting on her knees on the cold cement floor bent over her notebook, writing. Water was dripping down on Lamiya’s head from the leaking roof. “Go to bed,” her mother scolded. “We don’t need your poems if you get sick and we lose you.” But Lamiya kept writing, upset with her mother for interrupting her thoughts.

Lamiya works hard to make sure that she has chosen the right words for her poems. She wants them to rhyme at the end. After she’s sure that everything is right, she copies them neatly into her notebook in ink. Usually her mother is the first one to hear her new poems. Her mom is very proud of her.

Recently, Lamiya started to write short stories. She also likes to draw, compose music and play the saz (a traditional Azeri instrument). Lamiya hopes to grow up to be a famous poet and journalist someday. Her sister wants to be an English teacher and her brother, a singer. Her mom says that if these three things happen, she will be the happiest mother in the world.

In the meantime, Lamiya is dreaming of the day when she and her family can go back to their home in Jabrayil, the day when no one will ever dare call her “refugee” again.

Reprinted with permission from http://www.azer.com/aiweb/categories/magazine/71_folder/71_articles/71_justforkids.html

From Azerbaijan International (7.1) Spring 1999.
© Azerbaijan International 1999. All rights reserved.

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