Soundmix Songs: An Exhibition

Welcome to Soundmix Songs: a gallery of audio, words and visuals documenting our song-writing project of the last six years.

This page will be updated weekly with a new original Soundmix song from the archives.

Our Exhibit of songs starts in the winter of 2015.

Back then, Croydon’s Refugee Council was based on Katherine Street opposite the iconic clocktower, and this is where we ran our sessions from.

It was a well-used old building – a hub of positivity and creativity – and it was here that Soundmix first began song-writing with our young students.

There are as many ways to write a song as there are song-writers. And with this, our first Soundmix demo, it was a wonderfully bright young student from Eritrea that improvised a melody for words the group had written.

 

Our second song did not emerge until 2017.

It was a worthwhile wait for what is one of the most rounded Soundmix creations: ‘Women Rich in Beautiful Power’.

This song was inspired by a popular artist: singer Solange, and an album she had released in the height of her fame. We workshopped lyrics on themes that arose of freedom, natural beauty and striving for betterment in life.

This was the last song we wrote in the old refugee council building, sending us to our new home with a boost of creative impetus.

 

Our next song from Spring 2018 took on a life of it’s own – as the best songs do.

It began in our song-writing sessions of Spring term 2018, which had now become an established part of the Soundmix process. During this term we had a very enthusiastic and talented group of young people and decided to run an additional session at a local rehearsal studio where they would get a chance to develop their song further.

There are many things that can influence the outcome of a creative process. It can be the environment, world events….even what your last meal was! It can also be events internal to us and that was inspiration for this song which was to be entitled “Inside Your Heart”.

In the focused setting of the rehearsal studio, tutors assisted young people on instruments working hard to craft a song, and two young singers took the roles of front-men and women workshopping lyrics on the microphone.

The room was buzzing…

Over the course of a few hours a song emerged, with two distinct parts that were both so catchy we couldn’t stop playing them over and over! Everyone left the room thrilled at having been part of such a joyful creation.

We performed the song at our end of term concert, after which it was added to our files and put away on the shelf….This always seems a shame, but each new term we see a large turnover of service users and our work starts over a fresh – such transience is the way with our client group.

However. That wasn’t to be the end of this particular song…!

A year later in 2019 the success of our writing sessions had led a podcast team, ‘WADUP’, to commission a song from us. The banger we had written a year earlier came to mind as something we could use. We dusted off the lyrics, re-learnt the chords and taught the song to an entirely new cohort of young people. Where once we had young people from South Africa and Vietnam, it was now Syrian and Eritrean musicians performing the same song of connection and hope!! The podcast producers worked with us to add a new section to the song using Berimbau (a traditional Brazilian instrument) and we recorded it back at the Refugee Council in Croydon.

You can see a behind the scenes video of the recording of the song by clicking here.

 

In the Summer of 2018, we were invited by Croydon Music and Arts – part of Croydon Council – to perform at their Summer Festival.

Soundmix had been through a period of transition and this performance felt like the birth of a new chapter.

During that term we had created a verse and chorus to a fresh song. We enjoyed a more poetic and abstract form of word painting and these were the lyrics that resulted:

I spent, ten years
concentrating
Finding, that space
Playing loud, happy songs

Under Green trees
Finding that space

At the concert we were literally to be playing ‘under green trees’ – their branches swaying in the heavy summer winds. Our set list included ‘Three Little Birds’, ‘Top of My Charts’ and our original ‘Under Green Trees’ complete with extended outro for the festival crowd! Enjoy the clip below!

 

Winter 2018.

Writing English lyrics with predominantly non-English speakers requires a creative approach ! One such method elicits lyrics by inspiration from newspaper and magazine cuttings. The initial set of words that come out are usually quite disjointed. But through a process of sharing what the words mean to us, we find themes.

The lyrics to this song go from geographic locations, to lighthouses, to dress style! The message that our young people felt commonly through this was to feel positive in the journey. And here at Soundmix we feel very positive in our own journey creating songs with our young people!

There is a line in the song that goes ‘Where are you from? I’m from _____’. In rehearsals we would fill the gap with the nationality of people in the group (the fun was that it would be different each time!). In this particular term, ‘Vietnam’ featured commonly.

We left the decision of musical style for this song to last. As you can hear from the recording below, we went with a gospel feel for the majority of the song, with a hip hop break-influenced middle 8 – enthusiastically led by drum kit tutor JT.

 

Working out our 2019 song ‘He sees the beach’.

It is unavoidable that our young songwriters are influenced in their choice of lyrics and subject matter by how we facilitate and guide sessions: from the environment we create to the materials we use.

Despite these variables, there are consistent themes that arise. This is demonstrated through the word cloud below, which displays the most frequently used words from all the Soundmix songs from 2015-2020.

The largest theme seems to be a sense of observation in the present and reflection to the past; ‘standing’, ‘looking’ and what they see and feel ‘inside’ and outside of their journeys. This is almost always based upon a sense of positivity and striving for what they ‘want’ and are ‘wishing’ for – the key things being ‘family’ and a connection with the ‘planet’, ‘breath’ and also peace. Beneath the surface arise ‘scary’ and ‘angry’ emotions, but ‘happy’ and beautiful’ words also come up.

Overall, it’s a message of journeys, trepidation and hope for a better life. And whist the subjects cropping up are sometimes challenging (and rightly so) they are always expressed in a sensitive and positive way from the young people. They are remarkable group to witness and work with.

 

A different category of song arose for us in early 2020: a protest song.

2019 had been a huge year for protests, with Extinction Rebellion occupying Waterloo Bridge, huge Brexit marches and the stirrings of a pandemic. This social unrest filtered through the consciousness of our Soundmix group to emerge as ‘A Message For The People’.

“WE WANT PEACE”.

Interestingly, this song started life during in-person sessions but was finished within our first term working remotely on zoom when lockdown measures came into force.

It was useful to have such a universally positive message within our song writing during this time. We opened up our sessions to young people from all over the UK when delivering on zoom, and the new participants were able to integrate with a song that could be owned by anyone who sung it. We had many young people joining us from up north in Manchester, Birmingham, over in Ramsgate and from in Greater London.

 

Our wonderful songs of winter 2020 and spring 2021 went back to some of our core themes: family, love and striving.

By this time, Soundmix sessions were firmly established on zoom. One affect this had on our songs output was to make them more minimalist. The technical boundary between facilitator and student meant fewer options for elaborating on musical material, We found ourselves using more repeating lyrical refrains and musical looping than we had done previously.

Thankfully we have an amazing teaching team to work with this. Anthony Russell, our guitar tutor, is also an experienced producer/composer who was particularly key to compiling and crafting our recorded material remotely. This song, the final composition of 2020, has a beautiful lilt to the vocals sung over a heavy one-drop looped beat.

 

Our song of spring 2021 went full minimalism as a dance track! In keeping with the genre, we had very few lyrics – just two lines repeated.

I want to dance to the tune of love!
Celebrating my identity.

Our singing teacher Angie led a process of melody writing where a melodic shape was crafted to each line separately to pre-set chords defined by our young people. We found yet another creative way to bring the process to life over zoom, by looping video of drums teacher JT playing the beat for everyone to practice along to!

Check out the final produced version here: