Set Me Free is an album collaboration between 9 years detained Arab Ahwazi refugee poet-artist Jalal Mahamede and Australian Art Music Award finalist Keyna Wilkins, working via zoom from his detention cell, with 19 special guest musicians. It is a musical setting of 12 of his spoken poems around themes of justice and freedom. Jalal has never been charged or tried, but is indefinitely detained for arriving in Australia and seeking protection. He has not lost hope that one day he will be released. This album was made in Sydney COVID lockdown 2021 with each musician recording themselves improvising in their homes, curated by Keyna Wilkins and sound engineered and mastered by Matt Stewart from A Sharp Studios. The album was launched to sold out crowds in popular Sydney live music venue Lazybones introduced by Dr Graham Thom from Amnesty International Australia, and in Brisbane at West End Church. The album has been featured on ABC Radio, Sydney Morning Herald and many more magazines and radio around Australia (see here). It is a companion to My Tears Will Calm The Sun, a 100 page book of his illustrated poetry, published by Tangerine Books in 2021. The book and the album booklet are designed by Maryann Hine (More info about Jalal here). Thanks to Dianne Finnegan for providing some of the funds for the project.
Special guest musicians featured on the album are Elsen Price, Carl St Jacques, Will Gilbert, Susie Bishop, Laura Bishop, Gumaroy Newman, Shane Carpini, Rhyan Clapham (AKA Dobby), Jenny Eriksson, Byron Mark, Emanuel Lieberfreund, Karen Cortez, Dawn Barrington, Connor Malanos, Josh Shipton, Isaac Lombard, Elliot Lombard, Sol Rosen and Lyra Rosen. Mixed and mastered by Matt Stewart from A Sharp Studios, with stunning album cover design by Maryann Hine using Jalal's art.
Jalal Mahamede is an Ahwazi Arab refugee poet and artist currently working from his prison cell. He has been detained by the Australian government for 9 years for arriving by boat and seeking protection. He draws from his personal experience to express his moods, feelings and visions through art and language, influenced by his late father Kazem Mahamede, a renowned travelling poet and photographer. The region of Ahwaz has significantly diminished in recent times due to land seizures by the Iranian government. Ahwaz people are a persecuted minority and continue to be subjected to many forms of discrimination.
In 2021, Jalal has been in detention for 9 years. This has included 6 years on Nauru and 7 months on Christmas Island and currently a Brisbane detention centre. Doctors Without Borders described conditions in Nauru refugee camps as "beyond desperate", UNHCR described it as "some of the worst conditions seen" and Amnesty International describes them as "cruel and extreme". During his long-term confinement, in often horrific conditions, Jalal has experienced serious mental health issues, as well as suffering a vicious attack on Nauru.
Jalal is a refugee who has committed no crime, but he remains in limbo, with no time frame, end date or guarantee of release. During his immensely painful, long-term incarceration, Jalal has nevertheless managed to create this series of heartbreakingly haunting, evocative, sorrowful, yet beautiful words and drawings inspired by his detention experience. His work reveals the depths of his heart and mind, and his vision of humanity.
Jalal hopes that sharing his art and poetry will reveal to people a glimpse of his suffering, through which they may understand that despite his situation, Jalal continues his struggle to be free and to make his family proud.
Everyone who knows Jalal and is involved with his projects hopes he will be released soon and be allowed to live a normal life, as he is a peaceful, kind and compassionate person with so much to offer the world.