Inspiring Alumni: Refugee Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza

I spent eight years teaching undergraduates at the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance (ICMP) in London, England, hopefully setting students on paths to careers in the music industry. My work there largely involved lecturing and supervising students on a mandatory final-year project – a 10,000-word critical essay. I enjoyed the process, but wondered about the value of this work in the lives of the aspiring professional musicians whom I was teaching. Many resented undertaking the project and saw it as a distraction from what they felt they should be doing – making music. I became increasingly uncertain of the role played by the school and by higher music education in general; did students really benefit from spending several years at college, honing skills for an uncertain foray into an ever more saturated music market in a dense and intensely isolating city such as London?

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Occasionally I am contacted by a former student with a story so inspiring that I am inclined to believe my work was not entirely in vain. I claim no correlation between mentoring a young person through a critical writing project, and the path their life may pursue. I am, however, thrilled to know some wonderful people and to spread news of their successes.

Chloe Boleti, who earned a BA in Songwriting from ICMP in 2015, demonstrates as clearly as anyone that success need not involve a fickle and celebrity-oriented music industry. Chloe’s work is an example of how music and humanity exist in symbiosis, and of how music and compassion meet in beautiful, meaningful ways for individuals and communities beyond the spotlight of mainstream media. Chloe told me in late 2016 she had made several visits, for a few weeks a time, to the “Calais Jungle” refugee camp on the coast of Northern France. This refugee camp should have been a stain on the conscience of the British government and indeed the nation. Instead, the camp and its residents were vilified by the press and ignored by most of the public. I continued to work full-time mentoring middle class undergraduate popular music students, and selfishly trying to play drums as much as I could while writing books on sociology of music education that basically no one reads.

Musicians know that music-making is at the core of who we are; it is as vital as the air we breathe. For many years, making music had been wholly fulfilling to Chloe. To her surprise, volunteering with refugees became as meaningful as her life in music. After the Calais Jungle was razed by the French authorities, Chloe went to volunteer at the Refugee Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza in Athens, Greece. She continues to make music under the stage name of Aphty Khéa, and has produced a short music video including recordings made in music lessons with refugee children in Athens. In Chloe’s own words:

I’ve had, and continue to have, the immense joy in being a part of a very unique community that’s built on solidarity, with the purpose of fighting intolerance and discrimination: Refugee Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza – a beacon of hope in today’s world. City Plaza is a self-organized housing project for homeless refugees in the centre of Athens accommodating 350 people, among them 150 children. It is entirely run on voluntary effort and is based on principles of self-organization and autonomy, without any paid staff or public funding. It does not receive any backing from governments or NGOs, and depends entirely on the political support and practical solidarity from within Greece and abroad. The track was inspired and kickstarted by the words of some of the youngest members of our community, recorded in our music classes during the summer of 2017. This track is an ode to all the beautiful people who comprise our massive and diverse family, and the collective effort of everyone ever involved.

Music and music education are always deeply political, whether we experience them as such or not. Musicking can be democratic, imperialistic, colonial, community-focused, anarchistic, punk, conservative, liberal, deleterious or uplifting (and often several of these at the same time). Musicians can change the world. It is my privilege to share Chloe’s music. Here is the music video for You Can’t Evict a Movement (City Plaza):

All revenue goes to Refugee Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plazahttps://best-hotel-in-europe.eu/
Music by Aphty Khéa
Mixed by Rotem Haguel
Mastered by Nova Rahman
Video edited by Irene Links
Camera: Chloe BoletiJack RwlnsMahmoud Alzaidi
Drone Camera: Guillaume Lopez
Additional Assistance: Zie ChinaskiRhodri EvansJamie Pasta

Special thanks to Yannis TutorAntonis Konstantaras & Χώρος Στέγασης Προσφύγων City Plaza

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Gareth Dylan Smith is Assistant Professor of Music at Boston University, founding editor of the Journal of Popular Music Education, and a drummer. His research interests include drumming, meaning and value in music making, teaching and learning in popular music, and eudaimonia. Gareth lives online at www.garethdylansmith.com.

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