Cork-based asylum seeker band to go on tour of direct provision centres

Citadel music group which was formed at the direct provision centre in Kinsale Road, Cork

A group of asylum seekers plan to go on a tour of direct provision centres all around the country next year in a bid to spread their message of hope.

Citadel is made of individuals from nine countries who are based in Kinsale Road accommodation centre in Cork.

Co-founder, Norbert Nkenguruste, says he and voluntary activist Roos Demol were looking at ways to improve the spirits of the people in the centre.

A decision was made in 2017 to try and source musical instruments.

Roos floated the idea on Facebook and the public generously donated 20 guitars, seven keyboards and drums. Volunteer musicians also came in to assist residents in the centre who had no training in music.

A former asylum seeker Saleem Nze from Tanzania who now runs his own production company in Cork also assists them in their endeavour.

Norbert (36) who is from Burundi says that the growth of the group and the recent welcome acquisition of a €5,000 grant from Cork City Council has helped morale in what can be a depressing set of circumstances.

A qualified electrical engineer who also has experience in product management he has been in Ireland for three years and is still awaiting feedback on whether he can legally live and work in this country.

Norbert says that the forming of Citadel has been a lifeline for residents in the Kinsale Road centre and also has helped them to integrate with the local community.

We organised a World Music event in Bull McCabe's (nearby pub) and we realised we could exchange our culture even if we don't speak the same language. We saw that we could have culture sharing.

"In the group we have (people from) nine countries. People from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Russia. Even people who don't play music are always around when we do rehearsals. It has helped us all.”

Norbert says the group compromises of "voices from everywhere" and the blend of cultures can make for interesting collaborations.

"Some people are singing in Arabic or in Punjabi. Music is a way to connect and integrate. People like music. We enjoy it and other people enjoy it."

Many of the individuals in the centre are well educated Norbert stresses and they find it hard to be without work.

"There are many people here who want to work but who just don't get that opportunity. They are doctors, lawyers, they are medically qualified nurses. As part of my community management projects at home I worked with UNICEF. I can also work as an electrical engineer.

"I would also like to keep this movement going. Helping people in need."

Meanwhile, community activist, Roos Demol, who co-founded the group says that they plan to go on a tour of direct provision centres next year.

We want to visit direct provision centres and make music with the people in there. It is spreading awareness and giving a bit of empowerment to the people in direct provision.

"I know of two amazing Jazz musicians in direct provision in Killarney. They are from Ethiopia. There is a man in Waterford who is an amazing pianist. We want to do all that next year.”

Roos says the group are doing so well because Irish people have a natural affinity with music. When locals meet Citadel it is easy to find common ground in song

“Irish people love music. And they listen and go "Wow these are people from the direct provision centre.

"(At one event) I saw people hugging one of the musicians who doesn't speak any English. They were just so moved by her music.

"It is a fantastic form of integration and exchanging cultures. Cork is really making an effort in welcoming refugees. “

Further information about Citadel can be obtained at facebook.com/citadeleire

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