Music can be a great way to explore big issues like this – why is why we’ve created a Refugee Week playlist.
Some of these tunes comment on asylum, some don’t. But they’re all great songs that just happen to be by refugee artists.
You can listen to the tracks via YouTube below, or skip to the end of the blog to hear them on Spotify
K’Naan – Wavin’ flag
K’naan grew up amid civil war in Somalia. He was 12 when three of his friends were shot. Not long after, he almost died at school when he saw a grenade in the dirt and thought it was a potato. His family left the country soon after, and were given refuge in the United States.
Katy Carr – Kommander’s car
Katy Carr has a Polish mother, and her songs often touch on what it might have been like to be a Polish refugee around the Second World War. This track came out of Katy’s first meeting with Kazimierz ‘Kazik’ Piechowski, the Polish boy who escaped from Auschwitz in 1942 insideKommander’s Car.
M.I.A. – Paper planes
M.I.A grew up in Sri Lanka. Her family was among the Tamil minority and political upheaval later forced them to flee to London as refugees. Discussing Paper Planes as a possible parody in 2008, M.I.A told Popwatch: “I don’t think immigrants are that threatening to society at all. They’re just happy they’ve survived some war somewhere.” Warning: explicit lyrics.
The Fugees – Fu-gee-la
This hip-hop trio trio were one of the big bands of the 1990s. Their name was a shortening of ‘refugees’ – and they often rapped and sang about social issues. The band’s Wyclef Jean originally hailed from Haiti. Warning: explicit lyrics.
Queen – I want to break free
Although his passport read ‘Frederick Mercury’, the charismatic frontman of Queen was born as Farrokh Bulsara. He fled the African island of Zanzibar in the 1960s, during the island’s revolution.
Mika – Grace Kelly
Mika’s family fled Lebanon in the 1980s, when he was very small. The country’s civil war had grown increasingly violent. After a few years of moving around, they eventually settled in London.
Rita Ora – I will never let you down
Rita’s family fled Kosovo during the Kosovo war, when she was just a year old. She has spoken a lot about her family’s experiences of poverty and hardship as they settled into the UK as refugees.
Noisettes – Never forget you
Shingai Shoniwa, lead singer of the Noisettes, is the British-born daughter of Zimbabwean refugees.Never Forget You was a top-20 UK chart hit.
Regina Spektor – All the rowboats
The singer and pianist originally fled Soviet Russia at the age of nine. She is now known for mixing up genres – and is rising into the mainstream after years of indie success.
Elastica – Connection
There was a moment in the 1990s when the lead singer of Elastica, Justine Frischmann, was the toast of the indie scene (along with her then-boyfriend, Damon Albarn). Her father was a Hungarian refugee, and a Holocaust survivor who was at Auschwitz.
Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars – Living like a refugee
This band started up in West African refugee camps – and have since performed on some of the world’s most prestigious stages, including the popular UK festival Womad. They are now one of Africa’s top touring and recording groups.
Bob Marley – One love
Bob Marley fled Jamaica to Miami when he was shot during political violence. His brand of reggae swept through the world and sold millions of records. Marley is often labelled the first international ‘superstar’ to come from a developing country.
Listen on Spotify