Artists join hands to host concert for refugees

Instrumentalist Pops Mohamad is leading a refugee concert./KABELO MOKOENA
Instrumentalist Pops Mohamad is leading a refugee concert./KABELO MOKOENA

Multi-instrumentalist and musician Pops Mohamed uses music to highlight the plight of refugees in SA.

Working together with veteran vocalists Sibongile Khumalo and Yvonne Chaka Chaka, storyteller Gcina Mhlophe, as well as the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra and Buskaid, the stars will stage the first global Concert for Refugees at Linder Auditorium in Parktown, tonight.

The concert is being held to mark the United Nations' World Refugee Day which was yesterday.

Mohamed explains that the Concert for Refugees will be staged through the help of Turquoise Harmony Institute, a Turkish civil society organisation. Proceeds will go towards supporting refugees in SA.

The music will be accompanied by a photography exhibition and a video presentation of refugee stories.

Mohamed, who has worked with both local and international musicians, explains that the idea of hosting a refugee concert in SA was motivated by xenophobic attacks.

He explains that the country has more than a million asylum seekers who face issues of subsistence, shelter, protection against crime, eviction, and the ongoing threat of xenophobia.

He says Concert for Refugees was important since he has been interacting and working with different refugees around the world.

He says he discovered that refugees were subjected to inhumane conditions.

"We want to create awareness to look at refugees as human beings not aliens. They have explained to me how it was difficult to start a life in a different country," Mohamed said. "We acknowledge their existence. We want to show them that they are welcomed and needed."

Mohamed says the plan is to take the concert around the country and make it an annual event.

The singer, who studied music at Dorkay House, central Joburg, is one of the greatest artists that hardly feature in festivals. A specialist of ancient instruments like uhadi, stolotolo, mbira, and kora, Mohamed says he has made peace with the fact that promoters do not want to feature him.

Instead of complaining about the situation, he has opted to create his own work.

He performs at Queen of Sheba an Ethiopian restaurant in Norwood, Joburg on Thursdays and Saturdays.

"You don't get booked if you don't have a hit on the radio. There is no passion for music that has a message. There is nothing I can do."

Mohamed is known for releasing hit album Kalamazoo in 1991 which was re-issued again this year.

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