For Javier Limón, the Spanish producer and musician known for his emotive approach to Latin jazz and global fusion, his latest project, Refugio del Sonido (Refuge of Sound), was an “inevitable” one.
Limón is the artistic director of Berklee College of Music’s Mediterranean Music Institute, whose purpose is to “bring together all of the music of the Mediterranean.” He uses the term “Mediterranean music” in a way similar to “Latin music,” to name a broad spectrum of traditional and contemporary sounds. The work of the institute, which Limón describes as “giant,” encompasses teaching and performance of music from Mediterranean countries, and an archive of recordings by masters of the region.
While Limón was recording an album together with his Berklee students in Boston, the project became overshadowed by the news of the escalating refugee crisis in Europe over the past year, and the tragedy which unfolded as migrants attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea in overcrowded boats.
“We couldn’t make a record featuring the best of Mediterranean music forgetting what is happening in the Mediterranean now, and forgetting that so many Mediterranean musicians are or have been refugees,” Limón said in an interview with Billboard.
Limón decided the recording would be an altruistic project to create awareness about the situation. He called his frequent collaborator Alejandro Sanz and singer/songwriter Jorge Drexler, whose own heritage as the son of a German refugee to Uruguay has been reflected in his music, to collaborate on songs. The producer also gathered writers and photographers to create essays on the topic of migration and the current crisis.
“Music is movement and movement always benefits art,” Limon said. “Unfortunately, the most tragic displacements in history have always generated great cultural movements. It is a historical contradiction, but it is a fact. This huge migration of refugees that we have now is a tragedy. But as a European, I think it is what Europe needs. New blood, and new ways of seeing the world.”
The result of the recording was four CDs, which have been released in Spain in partnership with El Pais newspaper, with proceeds destined for Doctors Without Borders. The global organization announced last week that it will no longer accept funds from the European Union because of its “dangerous migration policies” and “continued attempts to push people and their suffering away from European shores.” Doctors Without Borders made the announcement after the EU and Turkey made an agreement to send anyone who had reached Greece without immigration documents back to Turkey.
Refuge of Sound will have a wider reach starting in July, when the album becomes available through streaming services.
Limon is also putting together a Refuge of Sound tour, starting with a benefit concert planned for Oct. 8 at the National Auditorium of Spain in Madrid, produced with the assistance of Berklee and the Casa Arabe (Arab House) in the Spanish Capital. Refugees living in Madrid will be invited to the concert, Limón added.
Limón’s project has special significance today (June 20), World Refugee Day. Watch two videos from the Refuge of Sound project: Alejandro Sanz and Javier Limón’s “Vienen” (“They’re Coming”) and “un Trago de Tu Vida” (“A Sip of Your Life”).