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In an extraordinary fusion of art and social commentary, "Homeland: A Song for Refugees" has emerged as a powerful piece of cinematography. The documentary, which is a brainchild of South African filmmakers Firdoze Bulbulia and Faith Isiakpere, takes its inspiration from the touching song "Homeland" by Neill Solomon. This song is a tribute to Esma Uludag, a Turkish refugee whose life was cut tragically short in Greece.

This moving documentary emerged organically during the recording process of Solomon's song. It developed into a diverse narrative canvas, where musicians, artists, activists, and importantly, refugees themselves, were given a platform to voice their experiences and perspectives. The artists intended to challenge the entrenched negative perceptions associated with displaced people and highlight their resilience, strength, and invaluable contributions to host communities.




Out of the night when the dawn is breaking
I lie awake and my soul is aching
That's when I hear my ancestors calling
In the dark I hear the mountains falling

Strange birds singing
Strange birds singing

Take me back to my homeland
Take me back to where I come from
Take me back to my homeland
Take me back to where I belong

Nobody's listening, nobody cares
Somebody's whispering about the years
It's so strange as the years go by
How one becomes invisible how time flies

Strange birds singing
Strange birds singing

Take me back to my homeland
Take me back to where I come from
Take me back to my homeland
Take me back to where I belong

Strange birds singing
Strange birds singing
Coming Soon...
Coming Soon...

a performance by

About the composer
Neill Solomon

Undoubtedly, Neill Solomon is one of the finest composers in South Africa – with his distinctive vocal style and musical agility, fronting his bands Neill Solomon and the Uptown Rhythm Dogs and Neill Solomon and the Passenger adding his indelible mark on music. He continues to shine lyrically and musically, mesmerizing and influencing audiences through his musical talents.

A renowned award winning composer for a large number of television, film and theatre productions, Neill plays an integral and valuable role and remains a visionary and legend in the creative realms of music platforms contributing his style, versatility and depth to projects, which has lead him on a musical journey around the world working with many musical talents, delivering fearless quality and range.
With his beginnings as a solo performer in the late 70’s playing the ‘Persian Room’ to touring with American Singer, Janis Ian, he released the critically acclaimed album The Occupant which was reviewed as one of the best albums of the year in the top American music trade magazine “Billboard”.

Performing in numerous plays and films, many of which he wrote the musical score for such as the cult status production The Angel, the Bicycle and the Chinaman’s Finger, saw him scooping a MNet Film Award for Best Music Score. Neill has since scored many internationally recognized films and theatre productions such as the acclaimed Gavin Hood’s –A Reasonable Man and the award winning production; Nothing but the Truth by John Kani.

Acting in the award-winning play Kwamanzi in Scotland at the Edinburgh Festival, Neill followed on to compose the music for, and act in The Trophy Hunters on international stages. He musically directed and composed the music of the production for Gathering of the Beasts, which later saw the release of the environmental album itself, enjoying much success.

Playing in the band on the Rodriguez Tour in London and supporting Joe Cocker, Neill forged ahead co-composing the song Crocodile Smile for Durban City for the 2010 World Cup, combining all musical cultures of the city, featuring Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The TV series Woestynblom, saw Neill composing hauntingly beautiful music resonating the sounds of his humble Lebanese roots and being awarded a SAMA for his memorable contributions.

Collaborating in creating his fifth Production music albums for the KPM/EMI platform which has achieved much deserved success internationally, he further composed music for the daily South African soapie, Isidingo . the film Met Kind and the critically acclaimed local film Joko Ya Hao, the brainchild of Mmabatho Montsho, telling the story of the late Winnie Madikizela Mandela which was nominated for Best Short Film for a SAFTA award and was featured in the Africa Rising International Film Festival (ARIFF)
A sought after visionary in the creative realms of music he has further scored the music for uBettina Wethu, a 52 part TV series and South African adaptation of the Award Winning Ugly Betty, an 8 part documentary- Legends & Legacies: The Story of a Community, based on the Jewish Community in South Africa as well as composing the music for the 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day campaign anthem.

Composing the scores for various Market Theatre productions- We Are Ancestors in conjunction with PAST, which serves to preserve and promote Africa's rich fossil heritage and to fund palaeontological research and education across the continent., Neill also composed the music for the play Nine Lives that ran at The Market Theatre, an incredibly written story about fleeing from Zimbabwe.

Outside of his rich tapestry of musical scoring for films, Neill has also been busy in studio. His love for music inspires his enthusiasm in mentoring, developing, producing and recording for various platforms in his own capacity as well as for artists at his studio-Passage One Music, which also doubles as a music publishing house.

He remains active in his studio working on various Film, Television and theatre projects and albums with local & international creatives joining experimental skills and visionary composition – instrumentally blending lyrical talent influenced by the cross culture and unsurpassed talents.

Story of the song

Neill Solomon is one of the finest musical talents in South Africa – with his distinctive vocal style and musical agility, adding his indelible mark on music and production. He continues to play a selfless, integral, and valuable role and remains a visionary and legend in the creative realms, leading him on a musical journey around the world, working with many musical talents.

With his roots stemming from that of Lebanese origin, Neill’s Grandparents, at the time, boarded a ship that they believed was sailing to South America yet ended up getting onto the "wrong" ship, which took them to South Africa. During lockdown around a year ago, Neill wrote a song called Homeland: A Song for Refugees, which came from a feeling of longing and loneliness at the time, with thoughts of how the pandemic had affected the world and its people, and of how the notion of being unsettled in many ways had similarities to the displacement of his Grandparents and how they must have felt finding themselves in a strange place.

After hearing the story of Esma Uludag and her three children who were Turkish refugees in Greece, Neill dedicated the song to Esma and all the refugees who lost their lives while seeking a better life. Neill performed the song with Pops Mohamed virtually, in conjunction with the Turquoise Harmony Institute, at their annual Concert for Refugees which was streamed on the 10th of December 2020.

The performance was received with an incredible response and spirit, which prompted Neill to further pursue the song's meaning and purpose to create a worldwide movement of awareness.
Over the past months, the first version of the song was recorded at Flame Studios at Constitution Hill in South Africa, incredibly produced by JB Arthur and was a culmination of unbelievable talents and spirit that included 20 singers and instrumentalists and 15 members of the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra.

The ethos of the project is that it travels around the world, with the song being sung and interpreted in many languages, countries, and cultures, creating a chain and awareness, globally. In addition to this, the documentary, filmed by Faith Isiakpere and Firdoze Bulbulia, will coincide with the release of the first version of the song. The project aims to feature music, influencers, and true stories to spread global awareness about refugees in support of their plight.

Says Neill on his participation on Homeland: A Song for Refugees…”Looking back to just over a year with everything that has gone on in the world, it is incredibly rewarding to have watched this project coming together and develop with contributions in so many ways from everybody that has given a piece of not only their unsurpassed talents but their spirit to the project which is essentially what has made the song what it is. There is no question that this project will inspire both communities and leaders worldwide to accept and integrate refugees better. In reality, we are all refugees, displaced in some ways, looking for a better life”.


If there were a sorrow parameter, the things that Esma Uludağ went through would undoubtedly be one of the most sorrow stories witnessed in history.

Her story began on April 20, 2015, somebody knocking her door very early in the morning. As part of an investigation conducted in Ankara, police came to her home and take her into custody. She was arrested on April 24, and spent 64 days in prison. Then she was expelled from her job. She was charged with sending her kid to a school affiliated with the Hizmet Movement, getting treatment at the Şifa Hospital, and having 293 liras and 28 pennies in her account in Bank Asya.

Her husband, Mehmet Ali Uludağ, was also expelled from his position as a constabulary officer. He had to hide in a friend’s house for eight months as an investigation had started about him. In the meantime, the police constantly visited his home and to protect his family he decided to flee and seek asylum in Germany.

Three months after her husband, Esma Uludağ also decided to leave. Towards freedom, she tried her chance first in the Aegean Sea and then in the Maritsa River. She attempted to cross rivers and seas, five times with her three children. During the 25 days of fleeing attempts, they came on the edge of dying several times. Finally, they managed to reach the other side of the border, Greece.

During this journey, Esma Uludağ had fallen into a canal and she carried her baby up over her head when her body had submerged in the water. Scream of her daughter: “Mom, I’m freezing”, in the video shot on the Greek border by a companion, has been engraved in memories.

She had to move their house eight times in Athens, where they waited 6.5 months for the official family reunion in Germany. On the day she moved into the eighth house, she texted her husband and said “I’m not good”. All she had been through had become overwhelming. Due to pressure and stress, pimples appeared on her body, heart palpitations began, her body felt numb, and her psychology was not good. On the evening of the day they moved to the new home, she suffered a stroke and then a cerebral hemorrhage.

Esma Uludağ, reported by message to her 1600 km away husband that her situation was bad. Her husband tried to reach everyone he could reach in Athens, and told “don’t worry, I’m arranging an ambulance, it is coming”. She could not stand on her legs; she crawled to the elevator first, then reached the ground floor and crawled to the main door of the building. She just managed to open the door and collapsed there. In the meantime, her prison friend Ayşen Albayrak, who was also in Greece, had arrived. She was delighted to see her. She told Ayşen: “I was very scared that something would happen to me while I was together with my children and they would get scared. Now I don’t worry and feel peaceful because you are here”.

When the ambulance arrived, Esma Uludağ lied on the stretcher herself. She told to the friend of her husband: “Tell him that I love him”. The doctors could not save Esma Uludağ despite the half-hour intervention in hospital. “For the first time, I learned there, what desperation literally is” tells her husband Mehmet Ali Uludağ, while talking about that day.

Esma Uludağ, known for her curiosity for learning and self-development, had finished two universities and she wanted to complete the third in Europe, where she headed towards freedom. Her dream was to study law and become a human rights advocate.

What is left from Esma Uludağ’s journey, which started with a police raid on the morning of April 20, 2015, are; three children, a yearning husband, her dreams, and things displayed here: dresses of her and her kids remaining from “the march to freedom”, diplomas, certificates of high achievement and her glasses.

Turquoise Harmony Institute (THI) was established in 2006 as Interfaith Foundation of South Africa and was renamed in 2009. Since its establishment THI has been pursuing the goal of strengthening dialogue and tolerance among people who come from different backgrounds.

We strongly believe that the future of humanity should be built on a culture of coexistence, dialogue and tolerance. Differences should be seen as a strength and that which can serve as multiple opportunities for building an inclusive world.

In this world everyone would feel at home and benefit from the bounties of God. This world has to be humanity’s lost paradise. Turquoise Harmony Institute aims to foster dialogue in the community by organising and hosting various events.

The Turquoise Harmony Institute’s philosophy and activities are rooted in the tradition of promoting love; and discourage against enmity. This form of tradition, along with an altruistic service to humanity, finds its unique place within the concept of Ubuntu.

The Turquoise Harmony Institute aims to use the culture of Ubuntu, to serve the South African people and the people of the world, by inviting them to come together; united in diversity. The Turquoise Harmony Institute’s mission is to build bridges and pathways between dierent cultures; wide enough to allow everyone to walk towards each other and embrace each another in complete harmony. The vision of the organizations is to enhance and develop social capital – by building personal relationships and networks in order to achieve mutual understanding. These relationships are fostered to enrich social good and promote a common understanding among South African communities and peoples.

The Turquoise Harmony Institute aims to accomplish its vision by engaging with a variety of social and civic actors; and inviting those from dierent communities to generate and share insights – thus removing barriers and obstacles of dierence; and build mutual understanding and trust instead.


The Nelson Mandela Foundation was established in 1999 when its Founder, Mr Nelson Mandela, stepped down as the President of South Africa.

Mr Mandela was South Africa’s first democratically elected President. On 9 May 1994, soon after our landmark election results were in, he was unanimously elected President by South Africa’s new Members of Parliament.

The next day, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was sworn in at an inauguration ceremony at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

He vowed to serve only one term as President, and in 1999 he stepped down to make way for Thabo Mbeki.

Soon after Mr Mbeki was inaugurated as President on 16 June 1999, Mr Mandela was on the telephone to rally his staff for the new tasks ahead. They had to remind him they no longer worked for him, and so the Nelson Mandela Foundation was born. As Mr Mandela’s post-presidential office, it provided the base for his charitable work, covering a wide range of endeavours: from building schools to HIV/AIDS work, from research into education in rural areas to peace and reconciliation interventions.

Five years later, the Foundation began its transition into an organisation focused on memory, dialogue and legacy work. A comprehensive refurbishment of the Foundation’s building provided it with an appropriate physical home, the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory. The Centre was opened on 18 November 2013, three years to the day after Mr Mandela last used the building as his office.
Flame Studios is a world class state-of-the-art creative hub and studio inspired by the Flame of
Democracy that burns permanently outside the Constitutional Court, nestled in the Old Fort at
Constitution Hill.

It has been home to and no doubt an instrumental part and spirit to the recording of Homeland: A
Song for Refugees, written by Neill Solomon over the past months. Flame Studios has seen the song
grow and develop into where it is today playing a valuable role in the development of the Homeland
project itself.

Credit must be given to Lance McCormack, the Director of Flame Studios along with the incredible
team whose belief and understanding of the vision in the project and its valuable purpose has left an
indelible mark on the song , giving it room to grow and breathe.

Flame Studios extended a hand to house, contribute and develop Homeland: A Song for Refugees
which has resulted in nothing less than a masterpiece. It has been a privilege recording the song in
the presence and walls that hold so much history of the past of both exclusion and oppression, a
message that runs deep within the song itself.

The ethos of Flame Studios has added incredible value to Homeland: A Song for Refugees reflecting
the past and essentially moving into the future positively.

Says Lance McCormack, Director at Flame Studios…. ‘Flame Studios is incredibly proud to be
involved in this noble project. As a Not For Profit entity positioned within the historic setting of the
Old Fort at Constitution Hill, we have a mandated duty to use our unique platform and help amplify
music projects that speak to causes crucial to human rights. The global refugee crisis is one such
cause and has never been more relevant given he tragic humanitarian situation unfolding in Ukraine.
Hopefully this beautiful and poignant song will go at least some way to drawing much needed
attention to the issue.’
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