Sunday, 10 July 2016

Syrian National Orchestra (and my tiny memory of Damascus)

I often think that literature and music and art are what keep us going. This is reflected in the moving story of the Syrian National Orchestra for Arab Music - forced to fragment as many of the musicians have now fled Syria - which reunited recently for a short tour in Europe.  One of the violinists, now a refugee in Germany, finds comfort in playing, it helps her express 'all this homelessness and loss and blood'. She teaches music to refugee children. Another musician, a qanun player, a refugee in Sweden with his wife and young children, says he doesn't find solace in music when he is sad, rather he struggles to play, as he feels 'destroyed inside'. The majority of the orchestra still live in Damascus. Whenever I hear the word Damascus, I think of us stopping off on our way to Karachi (my one and only trip there) in 1974, my Scottish mother taking me and my brothers to visit a year after my Pakistani father had died. There was a man at the airport in Damascus drinking tea in the cafe - a huge Formica circle-shaped bar - and I was scared as I was sure he was a ghost. I was only ten and had not met many dark-skinned men so it was not odd that I thought this man with sad eyes was my father.

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