Rudimental: Live in a living room to ‘tell refugees they are welcome’

Rudimental's Amir Amor arrived in Britain aged seven, having fled his native Iran. Now the Brit Award-winner is part of Amnesty International's 'Give a Home' gig series, aimed at smashing the stigma of refugees

More than 1,000 music stars including Ed Sheeran, Rudimental, Emeli Sandé (below) and The National are coming to more than 300 living rooms like yours worldwide to perform intimate shows in over 200 cities across 60 countries. All on just one day, September 20, in aid of raising awareness and attempting to counter the effects of one of the defining issues of our era – the spiralling global refugee crisis.

The new concert series, Give A Home, is a first-of-its-kind event organised by Amnesty International in participation with Sofar Sounds – a London-based company which has created a worldwide community based around gigs in intimate spaces, often people’s homes.

Emeli Sandé

It will bring together established and emerging artists with refugees and local communities. VICE and Facebook Live will live-stream the concerts, helping Give A Home reach a potential audience of many millions globally, sending a positive message to displaced people everywhere letting them know that they aren’t forgotten about, and that in spite of a worsening situation – 22 million refugees worldwide and rising right now, making it the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War – they can still feel welcome throughout the world.

For some musicians taking part in Give A Home, the refugee crisis is a subject particularly close to their heart. Amir Amor, real name Amir Izadkhah, is a record producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist musician with several times chart-topping and award-winning English drum’n’bass band Rudimental. He arrived in London as an immigrant (not technically a refugee) in 1992, aged seven, having fled his native Iran, which had been rocked during his early childhood by the Iran-Iraq War, leaving Amir unable to enrol in school and often escaping to shelters amidst bombing raids.

… 300+ shows…. 60+ countries worldwide… 1000+ musicians…

  • 65.6 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide by war, violence and persecution at the end of 2016 – a total bigger than the population of the United Kingdom and about 300,000 more than last year (UNHCR)
  • Total seeking safety across international borders as refugees topped 22.5 million – the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War (UNHCR)
  • Currently just 10 of the world’s 193 countries – none of them among the wealthiest nations – host more than 50 per cent of its refugees

Unable to speak English and with no friends or family around him initially other than his mother and sister, Amir had a hard time getting settled and integrated into British society, not to mention gaining an education. Worryingly, he thinks refugees arriving in the UK today, 25 years on, have it much worse than he did.

Stigmatised and even demonised from the moment they arrive by the right-wing media, and increasingly limited in the kind of social care they can access in the face of government cutbacks, he describes their situation as being “like getting beaten while you’re down”.

When we came to Britain it was the time of John Major’s government and it was a lot more welcoming

“When we came to Britain it was under the Conservative government of John Major and funnily enough at that time it was a lot more welcoming,” Amir laughs with disbelief. “I think for refugees and for anyone really coming to this country today, I think it’s got harder.

“I remember it being really challenging for me and my family,” he continues. “You don’t speak the language, you don’t know what’s available to you. People come here and they’re extremely vulnerable and they get taken advantage of. I remember landlords taking money from my mum and moving us out, literally putting us out on the street sometimes. And my mum was a teacher – she wasn’t an uneducated person. But the language barrier and also just the cultural barrier was huge for her.”

A turning point for Amir and his family was when an “angel social worker came along and sorted us out,” as he remembers it. “It took us years to really understand that you can get help here,” he says. “It was somehow getting into the social care world that really changed my life and allowed me to have a life and allowed my family to have a life.

“Little things like learning that you can get help putting your kids to school even if you don’t have a fixed address. If it wasn’t for that then who knows where we would have been.”

Music was crucial to a teenage Amir in helping him establish an identity and find his place in British society and culture. It helped him start building a career that would later lead to masterminding two multi-platinum-selling number one albums and winning a Brit Award and a Mobo Award with Rudimental, as well as earning production and writing credits for the likes of Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran and Charli XCX.

It’s really important to change the image of the refugee or the immigrant. Music can do that

Which is why he was so eager to get involved with Give A Home, as part of which Rudimental will perform a show at an intimate secret location in London. “It’s really important to change the image of the refugee or the immigrant,” Amir reflects. “Right now it’s a very negative image, anything you can think of that’s bad is quickly linked to foreigners or refugees these days.

“Music is a great way of changing negative preconceptions. It’s a universal language – we can see it at our gigs. People from all walks of life, people that I might not normally otherwise ever get to meet come to our gigs. It can make a huge difference.”