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This Journey

This Journey

Twenty years ago, the Rowner estate in Gosport was deemed the worst estate in Britain. With the help of Rowner Community Trust, the estate is now undergoing a serious programme of regeneration and working in a positive way to improve the reputation of the area. Like immigration detainees, Rowner residents often suffer from a poor image in local and national press.

The latest Music In Detention Community Exchange project that took place in August 2014 in Gosport saw detainees at Haslar Immigration Removal Centre and participants from Rowner Community Trust form a month-long musical collaboration where ideas, lyrics and musical beats were exchanged, creating four new and original tracks of music.

Facilitated by local musician Simon Paylor of Fugitive Music, the sessions took place every Wednesday for the four weeks of August. Simon would spend each Wednesday afternoon with the Rowner group and then go on to Haslar IRC that same evening. Through conversations and mind maps, the workshops explored ideas of community, family, hope, journeys, love, separation and even the idea of interacting between you and your former self.

These conversations revealed some unexpected common ground and shared experiences between the two groups. Reflecting on the reactions of detainees when they heard stories from members of the Rowner group about growing up on the estate, Simon Paylor admitted that he hadn’t expected “the depth of conversation about negative factors facing communities in inner city London”, that followed.  It turned out a few detainees had their own experiences of inner city estate living from the time before they were detained.

Musical ideas, compositions and recordings were passed between the two groups. Explanations of the various ideas behind the different songs were recorded and passed between the groups, to help give participants the chance to hear the real voices of their fellow musicians.  This further developed their ability to collaborate with one another, whilst giving the sense of a real conversation between the two groups. Unsurprisingly these conversations and musical collaborations instilled a strong desire within both groups to meet each other in person and plans are currently being made to try and make this happen. Through their musical connections the groups discovered they had a great deal in common and an awful lot to learn from one another.

Listen to the four finished tracks below and read the stories behind them. CDs are on their way!

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This Journey

Ballad, Rock, Soul

This song arose in the course of generating some musical ideas. One of the Rowner participants expressed an interest in the kind of ballads that Beyonce does, and another participant contributed a piano part. The musical idea was taken to Haslar that evening, and a Zimbabwean detainee who had previously lived in Portsmouth for years created the drum track. After some consideration, a different chord structure was suggested, with the acoustic guitar being a key to the development of the song; the piano was retained as a supplementary part.

One participant in Haslar grew up in South London, but is now in Haslar after 3 spells in prison. Having reached 30 years old, he is serious about changing his life, and this project has clearly helped him express some of his thoughts and feelings. This song is in essence his story - his rap is autobiographical, reflective and honest.

The chorus was developed through group work and conversations at Rowner. Each participant came up with lyrics around the themes after listening to the detainee’s contributions. All of the group then sang as a choir, which was later supplemented by participants in Haslar. It reflects the possibility of people in your community or family ‘getting behind you‘ regardless of what you’ve done (like the choir did for the rap), how at best they can ‘sing hope’ into your life, and even if they can’t solve your problems, they can at least walk the journey with you.

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Learning Curve

Hip hop, Rap

This track starts with extracts from a recording originally made of the Haslar participant mentioned above, passing on his greetings to the Rowner group and explaining his ideas around this song. Originally he wanted to explore what it might mean to leave a voicemail for your younger self - what advice would you give to yourself when you were young, or how would you advise young people now, given your life experience? What messages do you think are key for your community? The core of the beat and musical idea originated from that initial conversation, and was produced in collaboration with him.

His idea developed into talking about a dream where he met his younger self, but the theme inspired many of the participants to contribute, and the song contains numerous extracts of rap, spoken word and song arising from this inspiration. Two of the contributions were intentionally altered to reference the original idea of a phone call, providing a sense that this was a conversation between participants, and is a dialogue we all can reflect on.

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Our World

Rap, Bhangra, Funk

This track started at the request of a Pakistani detainee who was interested in using something with a bhangra beat, and to explore the idea of people coming together and celebrating their differences in harmony. Another Pakistani detainee contributed original melody and lyrics in his own language: a love song for his girlfriend, expressing sentiments of love and loss through separation. 

It was only when other participants engaged with this second idea of a ‘love song’ that the track came together. Firstly it's a celebration of those people who become ‘our world’ and with whom we are intimate with in spite (and because of) our differences; and secondly its uses that picture to explore how we might live together within communities. Both detainees and Rowner participants contributed, especially one Rowner participant who contributed most of the guitar parts.

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We Are All One

Samba, Rock

A number of the Rowner group had previously been involved in a community Samba band, and a couple of participants were especially interested in exploring this. A bass and guitar were added by other participants, although only the bass made the final cut. At that stage, the idea was simply to have a collaborative ‘jam’ with detainee participants.

The track was taken to Haslar in the evening, where extra percussion was added (hand drums, tambourine etc), some guitars, and a bulbul turang (an Indian/ Pakistani instrument evolved from a Japanese equivalent). One of the detainees was inspired to write some words to sing over it, whilst another participant from Pakistan felt he could contribute with a song from his homeland. The arrangement was given shape in production.