Murtaza Jafari with Tiger and Me.

Murtaza Jafari with Tiger and Me. Photo: Simon Schluter

Murtaza Jafari plays the dambura. It's a curious, long-necked, light wooden instrument, somewhere between a banjo and a guitar, and is popular among the Hazaras of central Afghanistan, where Jafari is from.

On Friday night, the dambura will take centre stage when Jafari performs with Melbourne six-piece band the Tiger and Me at Hamer Hall. Jafari and the band are two of the artists involved in the Key of Sea, a fundraiser in which local musicians are paired up with asylum seekers to create songs, which are recorded on an album and performed at a concert.

The Tiger and Me first caught wind of the project when the inaugural Key of Sea was being developed by Hugh Crosthwaite in 2010.

"I asked Hugh about it when the Key of Sea 1 was being made and he said, 'I don't think you're quite there yet,' but then when the second one rolled around we'd had a really good year, so he gave us a call and invited us to be on it," says Ade Vincent, one of the band's lead vocalists.

Tomorrow night, The Tiger and Me and Jafari will perform alongside fellow Key of Sea artists including Chet Faker and The Royal Swazi Spa and Brous and Awaz.

Jafari, who has played the dambura in front of big crowds in Melbourne and back in Afghanistan, was noticed by Crosthwaite after contributing his music to a documentary that chronicled his journey to Australia from Indonesia by boat ten years ago.

Crosthwaite paired Jafari up with the band, they met up for a cup of tea and a chat, and the next day, devised and recorded a song for the album in the space of 13 hours. Together they created an updated version of an Afghan love song, based on an ancient Afghan poem.

"The song's called Az Eshq Tho, which means 'because of your love', says Jane Hendry, fellow vocalist in the band. "We got a loose translation from Murtaza on what the song was about, and then chose English lyrics to try and convey that and mirror the Afghan lyrics."

"I think it sounds like the Tiger and Me and it sounds like Murtaza," says Vincent. "That's why we're all really proud of it, because it sounds like both acts."

The Key of Sea is at Hamer Hall this Friday the 14th of December at 8pm.

Tickets available through artscentremelbourne.com.au