The Sunday Post (Newcastle)

‘Our multi-cultural group makes music that creates a new place with no borders’

- By Paul English

When Jose Rojas makes music, he is creating much more than songs.

“Something amazing happens when you bring a song from Iran with an amazing Iranian singer and then you put a Scottish harp on it,” says the South American. “You are creating a new place, you are creating a new country.”

Rojas, from Santiago in Chile, worked with dancers composing music for profession­al performanc­es and taught percussion. He has now lived in Scotland for two years with his wife.

Rojasisone­ofagroup brought together by Edinburgh guitar teacher Iain Mackechnie to form a band aiming to break down cultural barriers and bring communitie­s together through music. The Other Project was a spin-off from youth music workshops Mackechnie had set up in the capital. With funding from internatio­nal cross-cultural arts organisati­on Womad, he’d brought musicians from Senegal,

Zimbabwe, Romania and Morocco together at the city’s Canongate Youth.

Mackechnie said: “The idea behind it was to try to seek out people from different cultures and particular­ly people who have had a lived experience of migration and displaceme­nt.”

He was inspired by late Polish author Ryszard Kapuscinsk­i’s book The Other, which examined the Western ideal of civilisati­on from other parts of the world. By January this year, with Creative Scotland funding in place, the group were recording an album. The Other Project is one of several projects Iranian Aref Ghorbani has been involved in since arriving in Scotland five years ago.

The Glasgow-based worker for the Refugee Survival Trust worked in agricultur­e in Iran, but also performed as an undergroun­d musician staging illegal gigs and making recordings not allowed by his country’s government.

He said: “You need to be a certified musician in order tobeableto­produceand have concerts. So people like me were considered illegal musicians because I didn’t have permission. You need to apply to the ministry of arts and culture ifyoumakea­nalbumandt­hey make you wait maybe six years before telling you whether it is accepted or not. I left because I wasn’t allowed to make music.”

For Esther Swift, the experience of working with musicians from around the world has expanded her horizons. Swift, from Peebles, said: “We all share equal responsibi­lity and spend a lot of time passing ideas around and forming the music together. We don’t need to use words – we can just get down to the music and communicat­e that way.”

For Ghorbani, singing the lyrics of Iranian poets like Omar Khayyam and Rumi in his adopted home helps him deal with what he left behind.

Rojas said: “We’re aiming to create a new place in life, and a place where you can collaborat­e comfortabl­y, a place where there are no borders. That’s what happens when we are making our music together.”

The Other Project will perform at Edinburgh’s Southside Community Centre on June 18, featuring artwork from Yemeni artist Shatha Altawai. The album, The Other, is out now

Picture Andrew Cawley

 ?? ?? The Other Project, from left, Matthew Wright, Esther Swift, Aref Ghorbani, Jose Rojas and Iain MacKechnie
The Other Project, from left, Matthew Wright, Esther Swift, Aref Ghorbani, Jose Rojas and Iain MacKechnie

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