Dana takes to stage for refugee gig

Kurdish musician Dana Ismaili
Kurdish musician Dana Ismaili

A REFUGEE musician who embarked on a death-defying journey to settle in Wigan borough is to perform in Manchester.

Dana Ismaili, who fled Iran after the disappearance and suspected murder of a close friend, will sing at the Royal Northern College of Music on June 22 as part of a community arts project.

The 30-year-old arrived in Britain hidden a lorry five years ago to settle in Leigh. He will take to the stage with the Manchester International Roots Orchestra (MIRO), a new multi-cultural ensemble which plays arrangements of songs from different traditions.

Dana, who sings Kurdish folk music and plays the daf, a type of hand drum, says his material has changed since he lived in Mariwan, where political songs criticising the Iranian government saw him fall foul of the authorities.

He said: “I have seen a lot and that makes me feel depressed. I no longer sing about politics because I could not bring about change in my own country and that made me very sad. Now I sing about love because love can change things and that makes me happy. Now I feel free.”

MIRO was set up by Community Arts North West through its Exodus Live project, which gives opportunities to the world music community.

Exodus creative producer Katherine Rogers said: “Dana is a fantastic musician who plays traditional Kurdish folk and contemporary Middle Eastern music as well. He really brings something special to the group and his story is just amazing too.”