Music

Cork singer Hilary Bow's new song inspired by Kurdish refugees releasing on World Refugee Day

“I’m a singer/songwriter/teacher/mother,” says Cork’s own Hilary Bow, who releases Don’t See Any Lines this Thursday on World Refugee Day. She explains that a lyric begins at the moment of departure from ‘home’ into “the journey of unchartered territory”: ‘Feather on my wing/Stay close, tuck in.’

Asked about the inspiration for the song, which she wrote, Hilary says that her life crossed paths with a group of Kurdish refugees when living in Greece in 1991.

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“We became good friends, speaking only Greek together, and we stayed in touch for many years after. I think this is where my attachment to the crisis of displaced people began. I worked with IILT (Integrate Ireland Language & Training) for many years and here had the honour of getting to know hundreds of people who had arrived in Ireland seeking refuge.”

Hilary began to understand the true meaning of survival. “These people were stripped of their homes, livelihoods, even identities; and, for the younger generations, stripped of a normal passage from adolescence to adulthood,” she says.

It was through Hilary’s own “damhsa” – as she calls it – with cancer, five years ago now, that brought with it another understanding of survival. When your life is earnestly threatened, everything that doesn’t really matter just falls away, she says. “You see the true nature of life, its fragility, and the commonality we all share. We’re all in this together. So when a 10-year-old child celebrates his birthday at an Irish Direct Provision centre, and he was born there, it’s time to make a lot of noise and do what we can to end Direct Provision.”

Featuring herself and Liam O’Maonlai on vocals, Don’t See Any Lines is to raise funds for MASI (Movement of Asylum Seekers Ireland); while The Irish Refugee Council and UNHCR is helping with its launch.

Describing herself as a “Cork rebel, through and through”, Bow busked on Winthrop Street as a teenager before going on to UCC where she formed a band called Bedroom Convention.

“I remember we supported The Cranberries in Sir Henry’s one night. This was just before they hit the world stage. The next band was the prophetically named Collapse. Boyzone supported us – kinda! Very thrilling times.

“My love for making music had well taken its grip by then,” recalls Hilary who adds that she loves all music “as long as it’s coming from a place of truth. And I think songwriting is influenced by everything we hear and see.

“I suppose if I was to think back to what I was listening to during my more formative years, Kate Bush would be top of the list,” she says, before also citing Sinead O’Connor, Annie Lennox, Joni Mitchell, Miriam Makeba, Bowie, Prince and Charlie Parker.

“The list is endless, really. In more recent years, it’s been Brad Mehldau. Anoushka Shankar.” In fact, she says, Shankar’s Land Of Gold was a big inspiration for Don’t See Any Lines.

All through the years, the brilliant Ms Bow “has been collaborating with musicians in different bands, duos, trios and so on”.

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