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Sharing the human tragedy of Manus Island prison as a symphony

Behrouz Boochani’s critically acclaimed memoir, No Friend But the Mountains, received its World Premiere tonight as a symphony by the Zelman Memorial Symphony Orchestra at the Melbourne Arts Centre.


Drawing on 1,280 of Boochani’s words as a libretto, the symphony shares the depth and human tragedy of the indefinite imprisonment of children, women and men who sought safety in Australia.


Led by London-based Australian composer Luke Styles, the symphonic cycle uses the power of music and storytelling to connect and move audiences in ways that haven’t occurred before.


Boochani told The Guardian that listening to the music he imagined all of the people who have been struggling against this system and also those who lost their lives in “these horrible prison camps”.


“I explained that this book is not a personal story, it is about a huge tragedy and also resistance,” he says. “We should make sure [not to] victimise the refugees.”


Refugee Voices CEO Ahmad Hakim said creative outlets were incredibly powerful in sharing the resistance and powerful voices of people from refugee backgrounds.


“Our communities have a long and rich history of art, music, literature and poetry that can enrich Australian society, but more importantly, it continues to inspire us and heal us,” Hakim said.


“Farhad Bandesh's performance of The Big Exhale was raw and moving. He was only released from eight years detention a few months ago."


"The arts share our experiences, our resistance and the systems we continue to fight."


"Tonight we stand in solidarity with our Brothers and Sisters, and ask all music supporters, donate and share this symphony far and wide with all the music lovers in your life.”


Refugee Voices is a proud Community Partner of Arts Centre Melbourne for the World Premier of this prestigious cultural event.

Farhad Bandesh moves the audience with The Big Exhale.

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