Saturday, 20 June 2015


It is not often I take a YouTube video as an inspiration for a song, but this video first moved me deeply a couple of years ago.  It still has its intended effect every time I watch it.  As is often the case with YouTube, one comes across some really clever videos quite unexpectedly.  I was trying to retrace what led me to this one.  I think it may have been after watching a few Stacey Dooley investigative reports that this link caught my eye - "Dancers star in hard hitting anti trafficking ad".   Dubious punctuation notwithstanding I clicked on the link and this is what I saw.

For weeks afterwards I could not let go of those images.  Like all the best stories the punchline is saved up for the end.  It is the contrast of the punchline with the assertive, almost confrontational, dance moves that makes the message so effective.  As the dance builds we perceive the women as having the power.  After initially keeping a wary distance, the men gather and are gradually lured in closer - willing participants in this game.  At the climax of the dance the women freeze and eyes drift to the written message.  Perhaps the dawning realisation of the message initiated the wilting of dozens of cocks as blood rushed back to the big brain ... assuming it wasn't all set up.  If the men were genuinely unaware their expressions show that we can be effectively confronted with some of the consequences of our choices.  I think we need to be reminded often.

I thought of my daughter, a professional dancer, and how but for an accident of circumstances it could have been her had she been born elsewhere.  She and her husband have danced professionally around the world, but what a sickening end to a dream this could have been.  She had worked towards realising her dream since the age of four when she first articulated to me her need to express herself through dance.  Dance having played an important part in my life too I was happy to support her.  As parents we needed to support her when the system challenged her perfectly rational choices - the secondary school that would not provide GCSE music, the careers "adviser" who told her to forget all this "silly dance nonsense" and think about getting a "real job".  Throughout her childhood and adolescence we took her to dance classes two or three times a week.  When we lived in a town and didn't have a car she would perch on the child seat on my bicycle and when we moved to a more rural location we would drive over a hundred miles a week to and from lessons.  Added to that were school shows in a theatre even further away along with pantomimes and summer shows.  Night after night of trekking across rural East Anglia and sitting out in December weather (August weather brought balancing compensations) waiting for her to finish.  It was hard sometimes, but never a hardship.  I loved these opportunities for communing one to one.

Watching the video I thought of the girls whose families had supported them as their dreams took shape.  Do those families know where their daughters are?  Were they in some way complicit in this tragedy?  At what point does one give up the search?  I would be utterly devastated had my daughter been lured into such a trap.  

Reading reports such as the UNICEF report by Barbara Limanowska, Trafficking In Human Beings In South Eastern Europe the situation is grim.  The trafficking of people is just one of many terrible ways our species has learned to exploit and devour itself.

As I thought about this video the song, "Mina", gradually formed.  Once I started to write it down the words came uncharacteristically quickly.  I think choosing Mina's name was the most difficult decision with regard to the text.  I wanted the song to have a wistful feel and to try to reproduce the same surprise in the listener that I experienced at the punchline to the video.  For some reason the Yiddish song,  דאַנאַ דאַנאַ (Dana Dana), from the show, Esterke, with music by Sholom Secunda came to mind.  With its English translation by Arthur Kevess and Teddi Schwartz, "Donna Donna" was a popular staple in the UK in folk clubs and on Saturday night television variety shows in the 1960s and early 1970s.  I have recordings of it by Joan Baez, Donovan and Theodore Bikel and witnessed countless floor singers in folk clubs sing it.  That was my starting point for the music of this song.  I trust that any of you who have heard the song would not have recognised this influence unprompted.  I am pretty certain that I have left no trace of the original reference and can justify it as an original work.   My early versions of the song had no chorus.  I liked the stark simplicity of having just the five simple verses with their common construction.  After singing it a few times in public that starkness was too unrelenting.  I put the two choruses in to give some space for reflection.

This is one of those songs that demanded to be written.  Having seen the video and having been confronted with the issue I could not and cannot remain silent.  Silence is complicity.

Mama held Baby Mina in her arms 
And she danced for joy and she danced for love
And gently she danced for the sky above her
She danced.  Oh how she danced.

Mina played as children played 
And she danced for joy and she danced for the thrill of the 
feel of the movement and every day still
She danced.  Oh how she danced.

She danced. She danced. She danced, oh how she danced.
The feel of the movement and every day still
She danced.  Oh how she danced.

Mina grew up and grew into her beauty
And she danced for life and she danced for joy
She danced and she glanced at a beautiful boy
She danced.  Oh how she danced.

The boy had friends who could make her a star 
And she danced for love and she danced for pride
Dreams could come true and her heart swelled inside her
She danced.  Oh how she danced.

She danced. She danced. She danced, oh how she danced!
Dreams could come true and her love swelled inside.
She danced.  Oh how she danced.

Mina left home to fly to her dream 
And she danced for life and she danced for hope.
Under a red light, strung out on dope
She danced.  Oh how she danced.

Mina ©Marshlander - 5th September 2013


  1. This, as you know, is one of my favourites among your songs.

  2. It is also one of the saddest.