Elena at UPS Customer Services is on the line in Lithuania saying “Yes, yes, I understand. You mean they are all incompetent. That they all are liars. That they say they deliver and they do not. Also depot tells me they call you but they have not. I see. They are lying. Everyone at UPS depot is liar. Yes. I send new message. No. I cannot give you depot number. I do not have it.”
Elena is the fourth person to tell me this today, because each time nothing happens, no call from the depot as promised, no delivery, I call again. There is no other recourse to action. Elena might be located 1,283.2 miles away from all the barefaced fantasists in the London depot, but in my powerlessness, that she is now on the phone gives me hope.
Needing to keep her there I ask, “Is there a call centre near to the depot?” The insane thought arises that closer proximity might make a difference. “No. Other centre is in Philippines. It is system. What can I do?”
Another call interrupts “Where are you?” “MY LIFE IS NO LONGER MY OWN. IT’S BEEN HIJACKED BY UPS. I’m a prisoner in my own home.” And I rail at my sudden enforced impotence, at not being heard – or if I am, then at nothing changing.
I turn to my emails. There’s one from Ian Brennan (fR401). A cheery “Hello” and “Here’s the new Tanzania Albinism Collective EP, Our Skin May Be Different, But Our Blood Is The Same. It’s even more experimental and envelope-pushing than their critically acclaimed album last year.” I unzip the tracks. Some titles leap out. I Stay Home. Swimming In Sorrows. My Life (Abandoned).
Ha! That’s me! Listening to Swimming In Sorrows first, the warm, raw vocals in sweet melody over a drone and clapping, give rise to goose pimples on my skin. These stay as I listen on. It’s an extraordinary EP, sparse, even on the tracks with gorgeous harmonies. It darts into your heart and stays there. Then I see the sub-title to I Stay Home: it’s (The Killings). Another track, half spoken/half sung is called Why Are You Killing Us? And I am ashamed.
In this world of globalised communication, these albino people are not just unheard, their voices are silenced. For them “it is system” means constant persecution, life lived in constant fear. For whilst considered to bring bad luck alive, their body parts are prized for bringing good fortune. Many fled to Ukurewe Island, four hours across Lake Victoria from the Tanzanian coast. Others were abandoned here by their families. Their lives are truly hijacked, not by silly inconvenient untruths but by the profound lies borne of racism and fear of ‘the other.’
By revealing the songs of those in the Ukerewe albino community – some of whom are singing or making music for the first time – and documenting the process, Ian Brennan and Marilena Delli provide hope in the chance of those voices being heard. We have the opportunity to listen; to be on the end of the line. This beautiful music provides proximity and through it we can realise that there is no ‘other’. It’s just ‘us’. And in that simple act – to make a difference.