Burundi-Drummers

Emerge Festival

19 June 2012 Artery

Music provides a powerful way of remembering where you come from, which is why it works so effectively to bring newly arrived refugees together in the community. Aminata Doumbia – Visible Mentoring Program

The Emerge Festival commemorates the United Nations’ World Refugee Day on 20 June 2012 and Refugee Week (17-23 June 2012) by showcasing the extraordinary talents of artists unearthed through Multicultural Arts Victoria’s (MAV) Visible mentoring program. Held in Melbourne, Emerge is the only festival of its kind in Australia showcasing the unique talents of refugee artists and emerging communities.

The Emerge Festival showcases works that are nurtured through the Emerge Cultural Network (Emerge). Emerge is a powerful community engagement program utilizing music, arts and skills development which builds access and participation of newly arrived refugee and emerging  CALD communities in the cultural, social and economic life of our community. The Visible mentoring project, as part of the Emerge Cultural Network, was developed in direct response to refugee and emerging CALD communities’ needs, demand and aspirations.

The Visible project currently receives funding from the Australia Council for the Arts program grants to provide vital opportunities for refugee and emerging CALD artists and communities to engage in music making and develop their skills.

Dereb Desalegn – Australian Ethiopian musician

In Ethiopia I could live and be greatly respected as a musician whereas in Australia it has been problematic due to the lack of exposure and understanding by the western community for our style of music…it has been difficult to find opportunities to play for my people and for Australian people and many of the young in my community are losing interest in music of their culture. I appreciate the support MAV has given in working to keep the culture of Ethiopians alive and strong and bringing our people together to share with our fellow Australians Dereb Desalegn, Ethiopian master musician/ singer, Visible artist

Sydney based musician Dereb Desalegn encapsulates the value of the Visible project to refugee and emerging CALD musicians and communities and wider community. Before participating in the Visible project Dereb had barely touched his masenko (traditional one string violin) since arriving in Australia 10 years ago when he left a successful music career behind him in Ethiopia. He had been working as a security guard and was feeling very frustrated that he could not find a ‘place’ for his music in Australia.

In the Visible project in 2005 Dereb was linked with well known professional musician Nicky Bomba currently on the Australia Council’s Music Board panel. The two formed a band featuring Australian and Ethiopian musicians and recorded an album together which won them the rare opportunity to perform at Womadelaide, WOMAD UK and WOMAD Singapore. They also toured to Spain for Womex in 2006, Ethiopia in 2006, toured nationally around Australia through Kultour multicultural arts touring network in 2008 and opened the Melbourne International Arts Festival in 2008 to celebrate MAV’s 30 year contribution to the Arts in Victoria.

The Visible project has built the confidence and capacity of people like Dereb to become strong ambassadors for introducing cultures from other countries to Australians.

From June 1 to July 31 Emerge Festival will showcase the outcomes of the Visible mentoring program and will be a chance for people from all cultures to make art and music together. They will be able to showcase their own work and be proud of their culture, hear each other’s stories and make long-lasting cross-cultural connections and friendships.


Image 1:Burundian Drummers at Emerge Festival, 2011
Credit: DWV Photography
Image 2: Dereb Desalegn
Credit: Courtesy Dereb Desalegn