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Why a duo from Comoros barely made it to Peter Gabriel’s music competition : Goats and Soda : NPR


World musicians can run into daunting purple tape in terms of acquiring a visa to carry out at festivals. Soubi Attoumane (left) and M’madi Djibaba (proper) of the band Comorian from Comoros needed to fly to a different nation to use for a U.Okay. visa to come back to Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD competition. Above: They unfurl the Comorian flag to a standing ovation on the live performance on July 31.

Marilena Umuhoza Delli


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Marilena Umuhoza Delli


World musicians can run into daunting purple tape in terms of acquiring a visa to carry out at festivals. Soubi Attoumane (left) and M’madi Djibaba (proper) of the band Comorian from Comoros needed to fly to a different nation to use for a U.Okay. visa to come back to Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD competition. Above: They unfurl the Comorian flag to a standing ovation on the live performance on July 31.

Marilena Umuhoza Delli

On July 31, the musical duo Comorian took the stage at Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD Pageant — for the previous 40 years a showcase for “world music” stars in addition to lesser recognized worldwide musicians. (WOMAD stands for “World of Music, Arts and Dance.”)

This yr headliners included Benin’s multi-Grammy winner Angélique Kidjo, octogenarian Brazilian legend Gilberto Gil and the wild card alternative of Oklahoma Metropolis’s The Flaming Lips.

Comorian’s two members, M’madi Djibaba, 59, and Soubi Attoumane, 69, grew to become the primary musicians from Comoros to ever seem at WOMAD. An viewers of a whole lot listened to their authentic songs with ear-catching titles: “The Satan Does not Eat Papaya, He Eats Hearth” and “My Pals Went Overseas & Had been Swallowed by the Waves.” After singing and enjoying an hour-long set of haunting acoustic music on handmade string devices, the group earned two prolonged standing ovations and an encore.

However the duo virtually did not make it to the stage. The explanation: It was almost unimaginable to acquire visas to journey from their African island nation to the U.Okay.

Their debut album known as “We’re an island, however we aren’t alone” — which I produced in 2019. However when it got here to getting a visa, they mentioned they usually did really feel as in the event that they have been “alone” of their wrestle with paperwork.

Comoros is situated off the southeast coast of Africa. It has a inhabitants of round 850,000 folks. The principle island, Grande Comore, is a mere 396 sq. miles (barely smaller than Rome, a few third bigger than New York Metropolis). It is a nation that many individuals aren’t aware of. The commonest response I’ve obtained when talking about Comoros over time — even from world music consultants— is not simply “The place is it?” however “What is it?”

With few airways providing flights to Comoros and virtually none doing so each day, it is honest to say that Comoros shouldn’t be precisely a journey hub.

The nation gained independence from France in 1975 and immediately solely six nations preserve embassies there (China, France, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates). As is the case for a lot of smaller and fewer economically advantaged nations, different international locations usually choose to not preserve full-time diplomatic missions. So a Comorian citizen usually should first journey to a 3rd accessible nation — equivalent to Mauritius or Kenya — that hosts visa places of work the place Comorian residents can apply.

A road efficiency in downtown Moroni, the capital of Comoros: Drummer D. Alimzé joins Comorian member M’madi Djibaba as they play their handmade devices.

Marilena Umuhoza Delli


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Marilena Umuhoza Delli


A road efficiency in downtown Moroni, the capital of Comoros: Drummer D. Alimzé joins Comorian member M’madi Djibaba as they play their handmade devices.

Marilena Umuhoza Delli

For the Comorian duo, the trail to the U.Okay. first required a 2-hour flight to Tanzania to file for a British visa. Neither man had visited earlier than, and so they did not communicate any of the native languages. They picked Tanzania because the U.Okay. Immigration satellite tv for pc workplace in that nation’s largest metropolis, Dar es Salaam, was the one one they might determine in japanese or southern Africa the place they might apply for the required visa for the goal nation and pay an additional Added Worth Service cost so they would not have handy over their passports throughout the utility interval. This feature enabled them to fly again residence to Comoros after the visa appointment reasonably than being stranded overseas as they awaited a call.

There was quite a lot of prep. The U.Okay. visa utility concerned submitting a 66-page utility. The flights to Tanzania required not solely the airfare however the further price of taking PCR exams for each flights — going and returning — to show they didn’t have COVID (regardless that each males have been totally vaccinated). Then after flying again to Comoros, they have been required to instantly ship their passports again to the visa workplace in Tanzania (with the quickest “categorical” courier taking 5 days) whereas awaiting a verdict.

After greater than two months of suspense, the visas have been accredited mere days previous to their scheduled flight. But they nonetheless needed to get their passports again in time to fly out of Comoros.

Unable to journey with out their passports, M’madi and Soubi fortuitously had a buddy named Toimimou who was prepared to fly to Tanzania and wait at a resort within the hope that the passports would arrive. After a few days he acquired the paperwork and took the primary flight again to Comoros, handing the passports off to the musicians at Moroni Hahaya Worldwide Airport with simply hours to spare earlier than their scheduled flight to the U.Okay.

The form of visa marathon confronted by Comorian is way from an anomaly for musicians. I’ve labored with artists from South Sudan, Sao Tome, Djibouti and Suriname who’ve skilled related trials attributable to their geopolitical isolation, making it much more troublesome for these non-English talking musical artists to succeed in a broader viewers.

Comorian recorded their debut album, We Are an Island, however We’re Not Alone, stay on Grande Comore Island.

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And it is not simply folks within the arts who face visa hurdles. Related tales have been shared by professionals in enterprise, athletics, schooling and as NPR reported final month, well being and science.

Regardless of all of the visa turmoil, the 2 musicians from the island nation shined at WOMAD. Longtime festivalgoer Basil Hopper, 51, mentioned Comorian’s set was “one of the lovely, heartfelt, genuine performances I’ve ever seen.”

After the present, M’madi beamed backstage. “I simply wish to share my music with the world and have a good time my nation,” he advised me. “I’d by no means depart Comoros. I needn’t journey abroad to know the way lovely and particular Comoros is. Comoros is my residence. I’m proud to be Comorian. I would by no means wish to stay wherever else.”

Ian Brennan is Grammy-winning music producer (Zomba Jail Undertaking, Tinariwen, The Good Ones [Rwanda], Witch Camp [Ghana]) who prior to now decade has recorded within the discipline forty data by worldwide artists throughout 5 continents (Africa, Europe, North America, South America, Asia). He’s the creator of seven books and his newest, Muse-$ick: a music manifesto in fifty-nine notes, was revealed final fall by Oaklands PM Press.

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