Today I am a refugee!

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The event in Zugdidi became something of a giant social demarche. In order to support the plight of Georgian refugees (technically – internally displaced persons), artists like Youssou N’dour, MC Solaar, Youssoupha, Grace, DJ Maia K, and a number of Georgian bands joined to break walls with their music. French activists also came to Georgia to join in the celebration, which was organized by the Alter/Vision group and the Tbilisi-based NGO Coalition for Justice.
Those who wanted to attend the concert were ferried to Zugdidi by special, free charter buses. And prior to the concerts, protests and rallies gathered on the Inguri bridge, where musicians, refugees, nongovernmental organizations, and citizens of Georgia came together to denounce the Russian politics of occupation.
Jane Birkin: “I am here to send a message to them – I mean my government – who can help settle the problem in Georgia. I did not know in Georgia there are more than 350,000 refugees. When I heard this, I was revolted and I wanted to express my protest! I believe that together we can change everything, I will never forget you!”
MC Solaar: “I have traveled around Georgia and I already understand what kind of problem the Georgian people have got. The problem is Russia. I am with you!”
Dominique Sopo (SOS Racism): “Let’s say no together to this imperial manipulation and aggression that Russia has done to Georgia. It is does not matter what nationality we are. Today we are Georgians, Armenians, Jews, and Arabs. We all have dignity and it has to be protected!”
Ariel Shvab (Jewish Student Union of France): “A few weeks ago, we met some refugees from Abkhazia and Ossetia. We want to stand beside you and send the message to the world. Today we are all refugees!”
The concert started late. The patience of the gathered crowd was surprising, who stood in Zugdidi’s central square and waited for the festivities to begin. The square was jam-packed and the adjacent streets were also so full that it was not possible to see the end of the crowd. There were about 60,000 people in attendance.
Youssou N’dour sang first. For the majority of the audience, this Senegalese singer is best known for his 1994 duet Seven Seconds, which he made with Neneh Cherry and is still played on music television and radio. Fortunately for the spectators, they had a chance to hear what else the talented musician had in his rich repertoire, in which he sang about Africa, African problems, and love. The crowd showered cheers and applause.
The mood was momentarily broken by the arrival of Mikheil Saakashvili, who came and went throughout the concert, but no one seemed to complain. The musicians even got into it.
“Mr. President, are you ready to rock?”
“Yes, of course!” Saakashvili would reply.
The public were also taken by DJ Maya K’s exhortation for “applause!” and MC Solaar’s t-shirt featuring the Georgian flag and an appeal to the Russian army to “Go away!”
People were mesmerized by Grace. Her music and voice, along with a cutting look, created a magical atmosphere. No one had heard her music before the concert, but she received an explosive ovation by the excited crowd.
The second half of the concert featured a familiar lineup of Georgian bands - Mgzavrebi, String, Salome Korkotashvili, Efemera, Rema, and Pornopoezia, who waited for their turn a long time. The concert was long but the Georgian groups still found extra time to rock out.
The concert is very important for today’s Georgia. The organizers of the event deserve both praise and gratitude for what they were able to put together. The concert demonstrated what a civil form of protest should be like and represented what kind of country Georgia chose to be in this conflict. No to violence! Music breaks walls!
 

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