We wrote this song over the course of three weeks in August. We began work on the song on 5 August, 2019 with refugees from Armenia. We continued to shape the song the following two weeks as well, adding a spoken word portion as a bridge between the second and third verses on the third Monday.
For this song and “Hakuna Matata,” which we wrote with a man from Burundi, I could hear the bridge as spoken word. I wanted to write something poignant on the subject of each song, and I had this sense that speaking the words in rhythm that echoed the verses might offer a powerful message to add to that being communicated in the chorus.
Sarah and I visit the center nearly every Monday afternoon, and over the course of several years we have met hundreds of people, each in search of a better life for themselves and their families. These experiences build up a kind of tension in our hearts because there is so little we can do to help ensure each person realizes their dream for asylum.
It is through poetry and music that we can attempt to communicate this breadth of emotion we experience and also our thoughts on the state of immigration.
The spoken word bridge we wrote for this song holds powerful emotion and also asks the listener to consider and question the concept of freedom, past, present, and future.
Let me be free
Free from what, free from whom, free to be
Free for you, free for me
It’s a complicated history
Those with power, they decide
But freedom comes from inside
Do you have a dream of what freedom could be?
Stop, and think…what is freedom actually?
Free to go here, free to go there
Not to be judged by the color of our…hair
For as long as there’s people, there’s this need to control
But the essence of nature is about letting go
We hang onto structures, systems, and rules
Build a wall around ourselves, we listen to fools
A border has two sides, but which side is safe
If we create separation, mistrust, and hate?
The only way forward is to embrace…
The chaos, the calm
The difference the same
The heartbreak, the bloodshed
The daybreak, the nightfall
Beginning and end
The words that follow “The only way forward is to embrace” paint the contrasts within the human experience. I changed the strumming pattern for this final testament in order to place a greater emphasis on the depth and importance of the meaning of the words.
We are all embodied in the contrasts each line portrays, for we are all a blend of the entire spectrum of emotions and events that fall within a human life. The only path forward for humanity is to embrace everything-the good, the bad, the ugly-imperfection is who we are as a species. It is only together in solidarity and support for the authentic human life that we can begin to move forward in peace.
To read more about the writing of this song, visit: Guiding Song: Free like a smile
These are recordings from the center that show the process of writing the song:
Spoken word/bridge runthrough
Spoken word/bridge second runthrough
Creating the end of the song
In this video, I talk about the writing of the song and perform the song from the roof of my home in Boitsfort, Belgium.