This year, I am returning to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Festival (NIHRF) with VOCALISM. In December 2015, we hosted an event showcasing the cultural diversity of Belfast in an attempt to appreciate the cultural identities at play in Northern Ireland.
In an event titled, "Songs of the People", traditional and folk songs of this island were performed alongside less traditional musical forms. These included hip-hop and rap delivered by an 18 year-old artist of Afro-Caribbean heritage. We also had a performance of Chinese opera and a fusion of Bangladeshi guitar, Indian table drumming and a Derry fiddler. Over the evening, Donegal sean nós singer Doimnic Mac Giolla Bhríde performed songs from his latest album Sona do Cheird.
On Friday 18 November, I sang at the launch of the 2016 NIHRF, which took place in Belfast's Black Box in the Cathedral Quarter. I talked about the "Songs of the People" workshop series and the showcase event that takes place on Human Rights Day - 10 December 2016. It is the final official event of the Festival, and should be a great way to close a week of human rights discussions.
Building on last year's "Songs of the People" theme, the workshop series will facilitate music-making in the community and will focus particularly on songwriting. The goal is to use music as a tool for self-expression and to actively engage and participate in cultural life. The law on 'cultural rights' specifically mentions engagement in cultural activities as important to democratic citizenship. Art and other cultural practices express so much about us and it is imperative that we appreciate it, facilitate it, and celebrate it together.
This year, the workshops are a collaboration between my own VOCALISM and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC). Zara Porter will represent the NIHRC as we travel to community organisations in Belfast on 4 December 2016. You can find out more on the NIHRF website by clicking here.