“One thing that makes me happy is to sing. When I sing I forget my problems. I forget everything”
We walk in the streets of Volvi. The area is full of small summer houses that were built in the past to accommodate the tourists who visited the small spa town. We listen to women and men’s voices singing gospel and rumba accompanied by a harmonium. Moria, Gisela, Therese and Sarah are rehearsing their songs. Richard the fourth member of the band couldn’t join them this time. Nowadays, the old tourist houses have been transformed into permanent residences, where refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Congo, Somalia, Eritrea and Pakistan live.
Moria comes and sits with us in the courtyard of the house, while the rest of the band continues the rehearsal. All of them are coming originally from Congo. Moria is 24 years old and on June 15th, for the second year in a row, he will celebrate his birthday in Greece. He used to live Volvi for 9 months. He studied engineering but has never worked on this field. Music is his big love. “Music in Congo is what football is for Brazil. It is in our blood”, he tells us. When he was little he used to sing in a church children’s choir. It is worth mentioning, that his grandfather was a priest. He remembers himself singing everywhere, even at school. As he was disturbing the class session, his teacher was getting annoyed and used to expel him from the classroom.
He took his diploma from the School of Engineering and he got a job as a DJ, but his family raised objections to his decision. “My family are Christians and very religious. In Congo, when you follow religion rules, you cannot work in night clubs that serve alcohol. There is no law that states that, this is a rule set by the family. My father’s sister raised me and she didn’t want me to work in a bar. So, I had to quit my job, but I continued singing with my friends”, he notes. Moria besides singing, is playing the guitar and writes lyrics. Rumba, Congolese music, love, his own life and the difficulties he has passed, as well as TV series, give him inspiration to write lyrics. Every day he listens to a lot of music. He really likes Michael Jackson, and he started English lessons to understand his songs. He also admires Papa Wemba and Tabu Ley Rochereau, – Congolese singers. “Their music is for me a source of inspiration. Their way of singing and also the tone of their voice, are elements that I want to add in my songs. One of the best up-and coming- Congolese musician is Ferré Gola. One thing that makes me happy is singing. When I sing I forget my problems. I forget everything”, says Moria.
On Saturday, May 3rd, Moria along with the rest of the band gave a live performance in the 15th International Book Fair of Thessaloniki. The occasion for this event was the collaboration between SolidarityNow and the French Institute and the OIF**. “I accepted to participate because I really like to sing; and I do not always have the opportunity to do so. Besides that, I am a French speaker and I want to meet and join the French-speaking community of Thessaloniki. For us this is very important as it is part of our identity. I hope that I would be given the opportunity to meet someone who will show interest in my talent and help me improve my vocal skills. The message I wanted to send was that all people are equal and that we have to fight racism”, he underlines.
Life in Greece for Moria has not been easy. He has experienced racism, as he confesses. Moreover, Volvi Accommodation Scheme -where he used to live- is located 50 kilometers away from Thessaloniki. “We felt isolated there”, he underlines. There are no coffee shops, restaurants or other shops in Volvi. The residents have to pay at least 8 euros to go to the city and they cannot afford it. And then, is Greece and the financial crisis. “We cannot find a job. Without work you cannot live, pay your tickets, buy clothes. I love Greece, but it is very difficult for us here. I come from Africa; I have relatives who think that because you are in Europe you are rich and everything is easy for you. I have no children, but I have friends who have children and they left from Africa to offer them a better life. Relatives call you and ask for money, and you cannot send them anything”.
Moria has been granted with asylum in Greece and now is a beneficiary of SolidarityNow’s Accommodation Program in Thessaloniki. Despite the difficulties, he is slowly trying to get used of his new life. “I am doing my best. I know one day I will make it”.
*The Accommodation Program is implemented by SolidarityNow and is part of the ESTIA Support Program for Integration and Housing of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and funded by the European Union Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO).
**Τhe CFSH program is implemented by SolidarityNow in Volvi Accommodation Scheme, supported by UNICEF, with funding from the European Commission’s humanitarian aid department (ECHO).
***The Organisation Internationale De La Francophonie (OIF) finances French language courses for asylum seekers in Athens and Thessaloniki.
**** Iliaktida as UNHCR’s partner has the management of Volvi Accommodation Scheme, through IATAP.