This has to be one of the coolest charity records ever made. Instead of various boy bands you’ve never heard of mixing with a few big names to produce ear wax that’s at least in a good cause, this is a genuinely good mini album. And Robert Plant is on it. ROBERT PLANT.
The Long Road features Plant, Scroobius Pip, the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars, Tinariwen and Kindness, and tells stories based on the real-life experiences of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. The artists pair up with people who had been forced to flee their homes and seek safety in the UK. Ethan Johns, who has worked with the Kings of Leon, Laura Marling and The Vaccines, produces.
The album opens with Tinariwen and Kek Algahalam Mas Tasossam, which you all know means Why Is The World Silent. Tinariwen was founded by Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, who as a child saw his father, a Tuareg rebel, executed during a 1963 uprising in Mali. It’s a suitably downbeat opening, with lyrics that centre round the need for people to open their eyes and take notice of the world around them.
Next up is Congolese-born musician and singer Didier Kisala, accompanied by poet Scroobius Pip. Kisala was sent a one-hour interview about a young Congolese refugee who spent 12 years without status in the UK. The song, Who Are You? is mournful. Kisala sings and Scroobs adds his trademark vocals, telling the story of the flight and the problems the refugee faced: “Right now I am enemy in my homeland / Turned from an enemy into a nomad … Despite the pain in my heart to leave / Staying here is an option I can’t achieve” then “Life on the streets ain’t a walk in the park … So I move from a country that wants to kill me / To a new place that treats me guilty”.
Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars up the pace with World Peace, a more cheery track. The All Stars used music to comfort and educate people in a Red Cross refugee camp during the Sierra Leone civil war. This is a straight-talking track about why refugees flee.
Plant covers Elbow’s The Blanket of Night. It’s Robert Plant so it’s good. “With the minimal amount of words, Guy Garvey manages to encapsulate the hope and the fear that must be in the minds of refugees who attempt a journey across the water,” Mr Plant told the Chron via a Press release.
Finally comes a band we’ve not heard of, Kindness, aka Adam Bainbridge. He has volunteered for the Red Cross and his grandmother, Amina Desai, was South Africa’s longest serving female Indian political prisoner for her defiance of the apartheid regime. He worked with Ayman Hirh, a refugee who fled Syria when the fighting broke out in 2012.
It’s a nice EP, which reflects a refugee’s journey from the native land — represented by Tinariwen — to the West, closing track A Retelling of The Hardest Story I’d Ever Heard being sung in English by a white man.