Review: Hamjambo 2, Common Weal

HamjamboHAMJAMBO 2, which performed at the Area C Coffee House on Leith Walk, is the second event of its kind organised by Common Weal Edinburgh North and Leith. Common Weal is an organisation that sprang up during the Scottish referendum, and has continued its work since then, allowing YES voters to undertake community projects, debates, events and more. Common Weal campaigns for a vast range of incredibly important causes, including equal access to learning, reducing inequality, renewable energy, and celebrating diversity . HAMJAMBO is just one of the many events that Common Weal Edinburgh North and Leith organises, allowing the community to come together and celebrate diversity and culture. HAMJAMBO invites performers from Edinburgh speaking in languages other than English to perform music and poetry, a celebration of the diversity that Edinburgh and Scotland has to offer and an important and necessary celebration given certain politicians running for parliament this May.

As I travelled down into Leith for an evening of poetry and music, I was a little daunted. Writing as a ‘single-lingual’, I was not sure if I had any place there, or if the performances, spoken and sung in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese Creole and so many more, would simply wash over my head in misunderstanding. Remembering the message on the Facebook group, ‘understand little, celebrate all’, I settled myself at the back of the cafe. I did have some trouble understanding the specific words of the performers, but a celebration there certainly was. Van Tastik, self-described as ‘Three immigrants in one – UKIP’s worst nightmare’ entertained us with poetry written in German and French, opening the evening with some thoughts about love, friendship and the media. It was at this point that I began to re-consider my place there, and the difficulty of not understanding. For myself, and others that are not French and German speakers, it was not the words that conveyed meaning, but the delivery. Van Tastik’s performance was passionate and meaningful, and angry it turns out, as he re-performed his German poem as a rap, an angry commentary about the ways in which the media portrays certain incidents.

As the evening continued, the importance of the delivery and the atmosphere created by these performances took precedence for this monolingual. We moved to traditional Gaelic music from Sam Gillespie, a language of cultural importance to Edinburgh: just over 50,000 speakers of Gaelic reside in Scotland. The cafe was full of people singing along to the choruses and listening quietly to a song describing a person lamenting over their lost love – a common theme of Gaelic folk music I’m sure. We were later transported to Spain, music led by Chesko Gonzalez, and to a party – percussion instruments were handed out and played and people danced. It was hard to believe that minutes before we had been listening in quiet reverence to Gillespie’s traditional Gaelic tunes.

The party continued long after I left with Sylvain Ayite singing in Wolof (the language of Senegal), Portuguese Creole and French, and Elyssa Vulpes in Italian.

The evening achieved everything it set out to do, a celebration of the diversity of Edinburgh and Scotland, allowing multi-lingual performers to express their art in whatever language they desire. Common Weal encourages this diversity and the importance of standing up in the face of bigotry. As a feminist, I aim to fight for the rights of all those that are facing oppression and bigotry, allowing them to share their voices in the language that they choose; as the general election approaches it is sometimes hard to listen when bigotry is spouted from certain people’s mouths regarding ‘immigration control’. HAMJAMBO is an excellent evening of solidarity and celebration.

If you would like to know more about Common Weal, visit their website, linked below. Also linked is the Facebook page for HAMJAMBO 2, which has links to some of the performers’ work.

Miriam Wright