"Free! We are free!" is the bellowing opening line of Montreal-via-Baghdad rapper Narcy's latest track. In a moment when the expression of black and POC artists is inherently political, Narcy utilizes his music to spotlight refugee crises in the Middle East, Africa, and South East Asia. With directorial guidance from Ridwan Adhami, the expeditionary video for "FREE," premiering today on The FADER, was filmed by Adhami while on missions with the Islamic Relief USA organization. The visuals journey through 19 displacement and war-weary nations like Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Ethiopia, and more. Narcy and Adhami detailed their inspiration and message behind the incredible "FREE" video with The FADER.
What do all of the people we are seeing in this video have in common?
RIDWAN ADHAMI: These are the people I've met in my travels with Islamic Relief USA. I’ve been blessed and burdened to visit 19 countries in the last five years to photograph and document IRUSA projects and programs. Blessed to see so many beautiful, strong people in the face of so much destruction and devastation — both man made or natural disasters. And burdened with the responsibility to tell their stories and share their faces with the rest of the world. I have seen refugee/IDP (internally displaced people) camps in Iraq, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Myanmar, and Greece. Every time I was fortunate enough to be able to leave and go home when all the people living there could not.
Lots of people don't understand how refugee crises in other parts of the world connect with our lives. Why is it important for you to document refugee narratives in your music and art?
NARCY: The refugee crisis in the Middle East and Africa is directly a result of both internal injustice and external power flexed onto a people, a religion, and a region of the world. The reality of the existence of an Iraqi or Syrian or Palestinian refugee is directly related to my hyphenated Canadian existence, from our political decisions at home and the narrative on news networks all over Europe and North America. A vilification of a people eventually births an enemy and a target. The enemy becomes the excuse for war and the target becomes the freedoms and rights of the citizen.
One of your lyrics is, "I don't even think my country loves me back," but many believe Canada is a politically neutral place. Can you explain why you feel this way now and what this lyric means to you?
NARCY: Why should I fight for an ideal of a nation if, deep down, that nation is going to question me, belittle my history and my origin when it sees fit to justify an action, and possibly search me to endless measure when I am a public figure who makes art and spreads a word of peace in my work? Canada is so close to being great. We have it good here to the point where these ethereal, political and personal discussions can be had in public. I think we could be the nation to take dialogue to an actual acknowledgement and change.