A popular Romanian singer, who was impressed by the resilience of refugees, has written a song for them, dedicated “to all who overcame difficulties and still found the beauty of life”.
Beck Corlan, 30, is an independent musician, well known to audiences in her home town of Timișoara and beyond.
“I first understood the real situation of refugees when I saw pictures of the drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi lying on the sea shore. His little body; I couldn’t get over it. I wrote all my feelings down in my diary, then put them to music,” she says.
The resulting song was called “The Voices”, and Beck and her band were invited to sing it at this year’s World Refugee Day (WRD) event in Timișoara.
My door is always open. Apart from being an artist, and a wife and mother, I am a friend to as many as possible. This is natural to me
Unfortunately, because of the COVID19 pandemic, WRD had to be celebrated online. But UNHCR’s weeklong social media campaign in June, featuring interviews with refugees, live transmissions and videos, as well as Beck’s peformance, reached an audience of over 100,000 viewers.
Zaher Alani, 30, a musician from Iraq, was one of the listeners. “Beck’s songs are touching and profound,” he said. ‘The Voices’ spoke to me at a spiritual level. It was simple but powerful, with meaning for everyone who experienced troubles along the way.”
Beck, who is married to a Swedish wood sculptor and has two young children, lives in a spacious flat in Timișoara’s picturesque old town. Her home is alive with visiting friends and children who come and go for music lessons.
“My door is always open,” Beck says. “Apart from being an artist, and a wife and mother, I am a friend to as many as possible. This is natural to me.”
As far back as Beck can remember, she has always sung. Born in Drobeta-Turnu Severin, a small town on the Danube, she was the junior in a musical family. “My grandfather played various instruments while grandma was his vocalist. Singing came naturally to my parents and brothers as well.”
When she was five, the family moved to Timișoara and Beck began studying piano and acoustic guitar at “Ion Vidu” National College of Art. “The music I was taught in school meant mostly theory and strictness, so I felt the urge to add joy and search for creativity,” she says.
Beck grew up with gospel music that she used to sing in church. “But I couldn’t limit myself to a single style,” she says.
“I was attracted by everything that was different from Romanian folk, like African and Indian rhythms. This is why I play a mix of reggae, funk, soul, jazz and, yeah, why I like to wear baggy trousers and turbans. People from different cultures inspire me. I have many refugee friends who sing with me and tell me their stories, and to whom I dedicate my music.”
I can only speak about them through my songs and encourage the world to stand with refugees.
“Artists like Beck are a voice that not only UNHCR but the whole world needs to hear. They are the living proof that diversity and inclusion can only lead towards something beautiful,” says the UN Refugee Agency Representative in Romania, Nisreen Rubaian. “By capturing elements of cultures from all around the world, artists show the beauty of faraway and maybe unknown places. Their art encourages the local community to accept and get to know better the people seeking refuge from war and persecution, in our country,” she added.
Beck says music is one of the best ways she can show her compassion to others. “Whenever something bad happens in the world, I suffer with the victims and feel the need to sing about it.”
Beck’s empathy and musicality made her the perfect performer for the WRD concert. It was part of the Timișoara Refugee Art Festival, organized by the Ecumenical Association of Churches from Romania (AIDROM), with support from UNHCR.
Sharing the stage with Beck were Mircea Ardeleanu Jr. (percussion) and Marcelle Poaty-Souami (keyboards). Beck sang songs of peace and love to honour those who risked everything on sea and land, in the hope of finding safety.
Of course, the highlight of the event was “The Voices”.
Hear the voices of your brothers, of your sisters,
Can you hear the cry of all the children?
Don’t turn your back, don’t shut your mouth; don’t lose your soul
By giving up on love…
“Such words are not comfortable, but these people went through hell,” Beck says. “I am asking listeners how they can go on with their lives, knowing such abominable things happen. I can only speak about them through my songs and encourage the world to stand with refugees. Now “The Voices” is top of my playlist at every concert.”
This post was originally published on UNHCR Central Europe.