Earlier this year, as Sydney plunged into its second lockdown and all my shows and bookings disappeared in a puff of smoke, I decided to throw myself into a project I had begun, composing some pieces based on the work of an intriguing Ahwazi Arabic poet and artist I had met in a refugee action group. Jalal Mahamede, a refugee from Iran who arrived by boat nine years ago, had experienced some of the worst detention conditions Australia had to offer. The first thing that struck me about his poetry was how raw, passionate and direct it was, which I found incredibly refreshing and inspiring.

Keyna Wilkins Jalal Mahamede

With the gift of more time, I asked Jalal if he would like to work on a collaboration. We discovered that we got along well on our FaceTime chats. He is very polite, gracious, kind and compassionate and a really great listener. I soon noticed how naturally musical his voice was. We tried a few free ‘jams’ on...