Paola Carosso and Wolkenman
Abstract: In the song ‘Disconnected,’ Paola Carosso and Wolkenman use a bi-linguistic songwriting process to explore and voice their perspective on places to call home in our current social political climate. Paola sings in Arabic and takes the perspective of the person looking through the fence to the other side, where Europe waits, so close but yet so far away. Speaking in Dutch, Wolkenman can choose: shout and get frustrated or close his eyes and deny even seeing the fence.
Keywords: refugees, Moria, Europe, songwriting, bi-linguistic, humanity, frustration
Paola Carosso (A.K.A. Mira Dietl) and Wolkenman (A.K.A. Job Bunschoten) are both musicians, songwriters and music therapy students. In 2018, Paola visited camp Moria on Lesbos to offer music therapy to children and young people. The song ‘Disconnected’ is mostly inspired by this experience. During her stay, she learned what it means to be powerless about refugees’ futures, dependent as they are on politics, bureaucracy and others’ willingness to share, so they end up disconnected from their own path. After the big fire in Moria in September 2020, Paola started the project ‘Music for Moria’ together with a few friends, including Wolkenman. They organised (and still do) live concerts to collect donations for the people there. With the concerts, they aim to show their compassion towards the people in Moria, as well as the beauty of intercultural diversity on stage and how it enriches us all.
Paola and Wolkenman wrote ‘Disconnected’ primarily as an expression of their own feelings towards the current events on Europe’s borders. But the songwriting process is also an invitation to enter a space together in which there is room and empathy for being, thinking and feeling. The bi-linguistic approach suggests that each story has different views and experiences while sharing a common ground at the same time.
The song emerged during a time when the topic of seeking a place to call home was highly present in Paola Carosso’s life. While improvising with voice and piano one evening, she thought of Wolkenman. It was the kind of music she knew she shares with him. She knew they shared that pain. Shortly before going to sleep, she knew what the lyrics had to be about.
The song’s Arabic lyrics translated to English
I am far away from my homeland, from my dreams, from hope.
My sight is cut into pieces from the fishing nets.
My perspectives, my hope, even my pain is scattered.
I am disconnected from the world.
I am waiting. I am counting the hours, the days, the months.
I count the dry leaves under my feet.
The dry leaves that promised to bring freedom.
I am so far away from the golden stones that lay on the other side of the
stream. Stones that keep the warmth of the sun and carry it through the night.
I am so close, yet so far.
The Arabic lyrics describe how Paola pictures the pain of a person who is somewhere in between—not able to go back or to reach any place of security and stillness in the near future. No place to call home. By singing in another language, Paola wants to change her own mindset and put herself in the place of someone stuck in that in between, showing empathy, interest and respect. To welcome the ‘other’ with all their baggage and fears. She wants to make herself and the culture around her more accessible to people coming from outside. By writing the lyrics together with a native speaker, she creates an initial connection. They sat together and discussed the lyrics word by word, without her understanding what he was actually saying when speaking Arabic. But it was somehow clear when he chose the right word.
Paola uses the sound of the language to give space to feelings such as pain, hopelessness, loneliness. ‘I feel that sadness is home in Arabic music. Each language brings a different culture with it that opens up a new world and new possibilities to find a home or the forgotten/ignored/disconnected parts of myself. When singing in a certain way, I create a world for myself, where I feel that I belong.’
But it is also a way of loosening herself from her own roots. Leaving the known, meeting somewhere with the ‘other’ where ‘we can create a new home, where we all feel safe and appreciated.’
After the Arabic lyrics were written, Paola and Wolkenman met to transform them into a song in which they both found themselves represented. Wolkenman started producing a soundscape and wrote a verse in Dutch to share and process the experiences and feelings about the position he and Paola are in.
The song’s Dutch lyrics translated to English
Indirectly involved in the deaths of thousands, the feeling makes me sick, powerless, hopeless, endless pain.
What the fuck can I do?
What the fuck do I do?
And what the fuck do I expect from myself? That I help? Them or myself?
Fuck the hate, fuck the terror. Love is the only thing that counts.
Fuck the money, fuck the thirst of the rich ones.
Hiding in their neighbourhoods from those who succumb.
But I, I close my eyes ’cause what I can’t see does not exist.
In the Dutch lyrics, the other side of the story is pictured. Wolkenman expresses his frustration about an ignorant society in which decision-making is usually based on power and money and lacks humanity and warmth. This country is his home, but he isn’t allowed to bring people here who need it so badly. Wolkenman reflects on his privilege, still finding himself in a position where his hands are tied, not knowing how he can help or what to do. ‘But my lyrics are so aggressive,’ he says while struggling to find the right words… It is what it is. The situation isn’t less than that. How else can we show our discomfort within a place we are born in, watching politicians deciding who can enter and who to send back to … ‘home’?
Each time the two met to continue the arrangement, they felt this sadness and frustration again. From time to time, they had to turn on different music to let go of that energy. Another privilege of someone who is indirectly but not fully involved.