Open the Borders

We wrote this song over the course of several weeks in the spring 2019. We began the song with a resident from Burundi named Buddy. I share his name now because since we met him he returned to Burundi and has passed away. His name is the only one we share in the new book we published with 27 of the songs we have written at Petit-Château between January 2017 and January 2020.

The original lyrics were written by Buddy in Swahili:

Hakuna matata

Tushikane mikono

Tutafika salama

Nabila Silah

We translated them into English and French, and in the beginning versions of the song we sang portions of these translations in the bridge:

Hand in hand, mains dans la main

On paix on arrive, in peace we land

In the midst of the Corona virus COVID-19 lockdown in Brussels, my husband suggested a couple of changes to help share the translation more directly. He suggested that the third time I sing the chorus I sing the English translation of each line. Also, at the end of the song, I had written the lines:

I come from Africa, and I find the whole world


Hakuna matata

My husband thought it didn’t entirely make sense to repeat the word Africa since the resident was talking about finding the whole world in Brussels, Belgium.

So we looked at the lyrics and the chorus and talked through possibilities. I finally suggested the line “Nabila Silah,” which means “without arms/weapons”. This way the final phrases of the song offer the idea that we can all come together from many places and exist peacefully, without violence.

I come from Africa, and I find the whole world

Nabila Silah

Hakuna matata

To read more about the writing of this song, visit: Guiding Song: This magic moment

and Guiding Song: Open the Borders

These recordings illustrate the process of writing the song:

May 27 at Petit-Château

Song beginnings

June 3 at Petit-Château

Working on the song and discussing different possible lyrics

Discussing lyrics and possible refrain

Talking through songwriting process and working on song

Incorporating words from more languages into the song

Singing through the song and adding possible phrases in many languages

Translating the Wolof words sung by resident from Senegal:

I am gonna fight my whole life for justice

Cuz I wish I saw all the people are living in peace and love love love

Monday 27 May, 2019

Working on the song:

Runthrough of the song:

Monday 3 June 2019

Continuing to work on the song: