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A Magazine for Sheffield

Migration Matters unites audiences in Sheffield

Now firmly established as a mainstay in the city’s cultural calendar, this year’s MigMat was a powerful reminder of the ability of art and music to bring people together.

Sauti Sol at Leadmill 2

Sauti Sol at the Leadmill for MigMat 2023.

Jack Owen

Nairobi-based musical sensation Sauti Sol delivered an unforgettable performance as headliners at this year’s Migration Matters Festival. The band's electrifying set at the Leadmill turned out to be their last in the UK before going on an indefinite hiatus after their last few gigs in Europe, leaving fans with memories to cherish.

John Rwoth-Omack, MC for the show, said it was “an absolute pleasure” to host the band. “We had some incredible backstage conversations and it became evident that their music transcends borders." Known for their unique fusion of African rhythms, soulful melodies and captivating harmonies, the Kenyan afro-pop group paid homage to Sheffield by having two band members don United and Wednesday shirts on stage.

Migration Matters Festival provided the perfect stage for Sauti Sol's music, embodying what Artistic Director Sam Holland says are the festival's core values of “celebrating diversity and fostering cultural exchange”. With a powerful and engaging support performance from Doncaster’s Rumbi Tauro, Friday’s show served as a powerful reminder of music's ability to bring people together. Holland says the 2023 festival “surpassed our expectations, uniting artists and audiences from around the world.”

Spanning nine eventful days, this year's MigMat, held annually during Refugee Week, showcased remarkable international talents. Palestinian footballer, activist and FIFA Corporate Communications Manager Honey Thaljieh shared her inspiring story of breaking down barriers and defying gender stereotypes in sport. Syrian musician and composer Maya Youssef mesmerised with her haunting music, skilfully played on traditional Arabic instrument the qanun. Rinkoo Barpaga captivated with his unique storytelling style, combining sign language and his personal experiences as a deaf British Asian.

Beyond performance, the programme offered a diverse range of events and activities, including film screenings, workshops and discussions on migration and social justice. Among the highlights was a thought-provoking panel event on the topic of decolonising the arts, bringing together artists and activists to emphasise the significance of representation and diversity.

Migration Matters has now firmly established itself as a mainstay in Sheffield's cultural calendar and this year's edition perfectly summed up its role in fostering unity – in Sheffield and beyond.

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