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Refugee Poet Jalal Mahamede And Keyna Wilkins’ Album Launch ‘Set Me Free’

November 17 @ 7:00 pm

$30

Set Me Free is a collaborative album from poet-artist and 9 years imprisoned Iranian refugee Jalal Mahamede and Australian Art Music Award finalist Keyna Wilkins. Launching in November 2021, Set Me Free is a musical setting of 13 of Mahamede’s evocative poems, which focus on themes of justice and freedom. The music is stylistically broad, with influences ranging from art music, to jazz, folk and Middle Eastern. 

The launch will feature animated projections and recordings of Mahamede’s unique art and poetry. After meeting Mahamede in a Refugee Action Group, musician Keyna Wilkins collaborated with Mahamede via FaceTime and Zoom from detention to compose the music that would form the 13 pieces on Set Me Free.

Jalal Mahamede is an Ahwazi Arab refugee poet and artist currently working from his prison cell. He has been detained by the Australian government for 9 years for arriving by boat and seeking protection. He draws from his personal experience to express his moods, feelings and visions through art and language, influenced by his late father Kazem Mahamede, a renowned travelling poet and photographer. The region of Ahwaz has significantly diminished in recent times due to land seizures by the Iranian  government. Ahwaz people are a persecuted minority and continue to be subjected to many forms of discrimination. A book of his illustrated poetry published by Tangerine Books and an album of his spoken poetry set to the music of Australian Art Music Award Finalist Keyna Wilkins, which they have made via zoom from his prison cell, will be released late 2021. 

Mahamede’s understanding of tragedy, humanity and compassion that imbue his poems and art are born from the immense pain he has endured after 9 years in Australian detention. This has included 6 years on Nauru, in a detention centre which has been described as “beyond desperate” by Doctors Without Borders and “some of the worst conditions seen” by the UNHCR. Mahamede is currently held in a Brisbane detention centre. Set Me Free is his story set to music. 

Jalal hopes that sharing his art and poetry will reveal to people a glimpse of his suffering, through which they may understand that despite his situation, Jalal continues his struggle to be free and to make his family proud.

Special guest musicians featured on Set Me Free include nineteen of Australia’s best improvising musicians: Elsen Price, Carl St Jacques, Will Gilbert,  Rhyan Clapham (AKA Dobby) Susie Bishop, Laura Bishop, Gumaroy Newman, Shane Carpini, Jenny Eriksson, Byron Mark, Emanuel Lieberfreund, Karen Cortez, Dawn Barrington, Connor Malanos, Josh Shipton, Isaac Lombard, Elliot Lombard, Sol Rosen and Lyra Rosen.

Keyna Wilkins is classically trained in flute, piano and composition in UK, Germany and Australia. She branched into jazz, flamenco and tango, also studying intuitive conceptual improvisation with Tibetan Buddhist musician Tenzin Cheogyal. Inspired by Debussy and Miles Davis in equal measure, she performs her own solo compositions and improvisations with projections and loop pedal at venues all over Australia. She was one of three finalists for the Australian Art Music Awards for Individual Excellence in 2021 and 2018 (APRA/AMCOS). In 2019 she founded the indigenous-jazz fusion duo Yulugi in collaboration with leading First Nations didgeridu player Gumaroy Newman and received rave reviews. Performance highlights include Woodford Folk Festival 2019-2020 and opening the Australian Flute Festival in 2019. In 2016 She founded the breakout space music sensation Ephemera Ensemble, which has been described by Jazz and Beyond as “Full of sonic textures and infinite possibility” and The Music Trust as “a sustained exploration of a certain sonic luminescence”. Ephemera was featured at the Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival 2017 and at Extended Play Festival of New Music at City Recital Hall 2018 and future bookings include Melbourne Recital Centre and MONA. 

The evening will be opened by Dr Graham Thom, Refugee Coordinator at Amnesty International Australia and Board Member for The Asylum Seekers Centre. 

Tickets: $30 includes a pizza of your choice