Bruna Garcia Fonseca
São Paulo – A welcoming, inclusive concert full of rhythm, vibrant energy, diversity and multiple accents but where all speak the same language: music. That’s the feeling you get when you watch Orquestra Mundana Refugi. To open this year’s calendar, the multicultural group will play at Casa de Francisca on February 4 at 9:30 pm. The small palace in the center of São Paulo hosted the orchestra’s last performance in 2019 (pictured above).
Twenty-one musicians from nine countries in Latin America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, besides Brazil, are part of the Orquestra Mundana Refugi, a project that begun in April 2017. With two albums released, the group consists of Brazilian, immigrant and refugees from several parts of the world under the musical direction of Carlinhos Anturnes. The musicality of the Middle East – represented by Palestine, Syria, Iran and Turkey – meets Asian, African, Brazilian sounds, unusual arrangements and original compositions.
The current makeup consists of eleven Brazilians and ten migrants. On vocals, Syrian-Palestine Oula Al-Saghir, Hidras Tuala and Leonardo Matumona from Congo, Mah Mooni from Iran, Paula Mirhan from Brazil, and from Guinea, Mariama Camara, who’s also on drums.
Instruments range from the Arab kanun to accordion, piano, violin, guqin, bouzouki, and others. The Brazilian musicians are Carlinhos Antunes (chords), Beto Angerosa (percussion), Daniel Muller (accordion), Danilo Penteado (piano), Maiara Moraes (flute), Marcus Simon (substituting Pedro Ito on the drums), Rui Barossi (bass), Tiago Daiello (cello), Chinese-Brazilian Nelson Lin (zither), and Lebanese-Tunisian descendant Claudio Kairouz (Arab kanun).
From Guinea, Abou Cissé (percussion); from Cuba, Luis Cabrera (sax); France, Mathilde Fillat (violin); Turkey, Chadas Ustuntas (viola); e from Palestine, Yousef Saif (bouzouki).
Antunes said that the orchestra has matured and finds itself at its peak. “We’re at the orchestra’s third phase. Nobody is just a musician from their country anymore. To become a musician of the orchestra, we go through every culture, with respect, diversity and a genuine internal dialogue. We’ve improved and want to show that. Now we’ve became an orchestra where everyone sings and plays songs from their original people and other peoples, where rhythms and melodies are at service to both the orchestra and the audience,” the orchestra director told ANBA.
That Oula Al-Saghir have arrived in Brazil from Palestine in 2016 without speaking Portuguese and now sings songs by Chico Buarque and Milton Nascimento is an example of the orchestra musical evolution and trajectory. On the video, she sings “Viver é perigoso demais” by Carlinhos Antunes and Susana Travassos.
Orquestra Mundana Refugi was formed in 2017 within the Refugi project in Sesc Consolação in São Paulo, which held free music workshops for immigrants and refugees. The group’s goal is raising awareness on the refugee cause and showing music as a synthesis of welcome and respect to diversity.
The group has recorded two albums, Caravana Refugi (2019), with 11 tracks, and Sessões Selo Sesc #1: Orquestra Mundana Refugi (2017), with 10 tracks, both available on Spotify (check out below).
The repertoire of the concert will features songs from both albums, such as ‘Abertura Refugi,’ ‘Mungu de Cá,’ ‘As Caravanas,’ ‘Rap Palestino,’ and ‘Pot-Pourri Milton Nascimento’, as well as new songs such as ‘Sombras da Romãzeira,’ a song written by Antunes inspired on the book ‘Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree’ by Pakistani writer Tariq Ali. “It’s a song inspired by that book, and we’ve included a poem by João Cabral de Melo Neto,” he explained.
Casa de Francisca is at Rua Quintino Bocaiúva with Rua Benjamin Constant. The venue opens at 7:30 pm.
Listen to ‘Caravana Refugi’
And their first album, ‘Sessões Selo Sesc #1: Orquestra Mundana Refugi’
Orquestra Mundana Refugi
February 4, Tuesday
Casa de Francisca
Rua Quintino Bocaiúva nº 22
Sé, São Paulo
Tickets on sale
Translated by Guilherme Miranda