Be aware brother, be aware sister – Rokia Traoré

Raising awareness on migration.

According to William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the number of migrants that arrived in Europe in 2016 is equal to 363,348, of which 181,436 arrived in Italy and 173,561 in Greece. 5,079 people lost their lives in the Mediterranean sea, 1,300 more than in 2015. It is the greatest number ever registered.

Well-known artist Rokia Traoré took part in the Aware Migrants campaign,  financed by the Department of Civil Liberties and Immigration of the Italian Ministry of the Interior and implemented with the cooperation of IOM. The song “Be aware brother, be aware sister ” aims to contribute to this informative, multicultural and universal campaign that talks about migration and awareness.

Rokia is a Malian singer, songwriter and guitarist, member of the Bambara ethnic group and daughter of a diplomat. She spent her childhood traveling both in Africa and Europe, getting to know different cultures. It was during her high school years that she discovered her passion for music and started performing, even if her native culture usually discourages women to perform as musicians.

During her over twenty years career, Rokia’s music style has been influenced by different trends, including traditional Malian rhythms (see her use of the n’goni, the ancient, harsh-edged African lute), but also pop, jazz and electronic sounds. The inspiration for her work comes from the world she sees and lives in, and her active participation in the 2016 Aware Migrants campaign is not so surprising.

Rokia’s projects always start with the question “Why keep playing music, and how?”. Having a reason to write music and communicate with the audience her view of reality is a key part of her artistic work. Her music is inspired by both the private and the public realm, for example, after having moved back to Mali from Belgium, she witnessed the destructive reality of the Mali crisis. This of course had a huge impact on how she perceived the world and on how she reflected this perception in her music.

“Experiencing life in a war-torn country was traumatic. I became aware of how naive I had been – if not guileless, without even knowing it.”

She also sings about women, uprooted peoples and the human conditions as a whole. About her latest album Né So she says:

“I believe what keeps me alive, what keeps all of us alive, is the ability to move from the singular to the universal. This may be what maturity means – to love your life without always being at the centre of it…”

The integrated multimedia project Aware Migrants includes digital channels of a website in three languages and social media combined with traditional media such as TV and radio commercials. In this comprehensive project, music is used as the universal language, in particular “Be aware brother, be aware sister” is sung in different languages, English, French, Soniké, Bambara, Lingala, Swahili and Magrebian Arab, symbolizing the will to reach as many migrants as possible, especially the ones departing from Africa.

The lyrics are meant to warn migrants that have no idea of the risks they are going to face, dreaming of a better life in Europe, “Hope is not in the desert/In the deep ocean there is no life for Human beings”. In fact, the majority of people who decide to leave their countries to escape from hunger, war, and misery, often lacking correct information and real expectations.

The video, shared through social media, features Rokia and the dancer Aly Karembé in Mali’s capital Bamako, on the Niger’s waters and the song’s call is not only a warning but a hymn to life.

Be aware
Be aware

Na kanda anatou (be aware in soniké)
Ka fo i ka don (be aware in bambara)

Yébéla n’déko (be aware in lingala)
Fonia angué (be aware in swahili)

Hris’ik taharaf (be aware in magrebian arab)

As far as you are part of life, regardless of sorrow that you feel from the wounds of your time, don’t give up hope, trust in yourself, trust in a better life possible.
The greatest call comes from life through the air you breathe, through the light you see, through the singing of wind.
Feel great, set free the best in you, fight hard to get it right

Be aware
Be aware

Na kanda anatou (be aware in soniké)
Ka fo i ka don (be aware in bambara)

Yébéla n’déko (be aware in lingala)
Fonia angué (be aware in swahili)

Hris’ik taharaf (be aware in magrebian arab)

Good, life is good
Hope is not in the desert
In the deep ocean there is no life for Human beings
Fighting hard to be well, joyful and remain hopeful
May your strength drives you to the most gratifying chanlange
The only limit to great possibilities is the one who marks where life ended
Dangerous, misleading, malicious voyage
Failing of a world loosing its bearings

Be aware
Be aware

Na kanda anatou (be aware in soniké)
Ka fo i ka don (be aware in bambara)

As far as you are part of life, regardless of sorrow that you feel from the wounds of your time, don’t give up hope, trust in yourself, trust in a better life possible.
Hope is not in the desert
In the deep ocean there is no life
Be aware brother, Be aware sister

Good, life is good
Fighting hard to be well, joyful and remain hopeful

Good, life is good
Fighting hard to be well, joyful and remain hopeful

 

Categories
Sounds from the Bucket
Francesca Aloisio

Francesca is both an International Relations graduate and a dancer living in Rome. She is particularly interested in international issues, intercultural learning and culture sharing, as well as music and arts. She is currently a consultant for the UN agency IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) in the communication division.
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