Playlist: The music of Syrian exile

Playlist: The music of Syrian exile

Eleven years of war in Syria has destroyed lives, homes, and uprooted millions. But even in exile, culture – art, music, literature – survives, and often even thrives.

That’s part of what ethnomusicologist Dunya Habash is exploring in her doctoral research at Cambridge University. Over the past few years, Habash, who is Syrian American and a trained pianist, has been following a group of Syrian musicians who fled the war and settled in Turkey. She is exploring how they have struggled, adapted, and sometimes flourished while continuing to create in a new country, albeit one with longstanding ties to Syria. 

Making music after fleeing a war, and while the conflict continues, can be an important coping mechanism, Habash told a London audience at a February panel discussion organised by The New Humanitarian and the School of Oriental and African Studies. As Istanbul-based Syrian musician Nour Yamm told her: “It’s the only thing that keeps me sane after everything we witnessed in Syria.”

Read more → Drawing Syria’s trauma

At least 13 million Syrians have been forced to flee their homes since 2011, 6.6 million becoming refugees (although that is not, Habash says, a term that all the musicians she studies have embraced). Making art in this sort of exile often reflects trauma. But as the music Habash shares below demonstrates, art also can celebrate a country and a people that are too often only depicted against death and destruction. So, give yourself a treat and spend some time with the playlist Habash put together for The New Humanitarian, featuring Syrian musicians she has interviewed, or just really loves. 

Click on individual song links, or listen to most of the playlist (not all songs are included) on Spotify here.

Why I chose this song: I decided to start this playlist with this fabulous improvisation (taqsim, in Arabic) to showcase the music of Yamen Jazbeh, one of the best Syrian qanoun artists of this century. The recording highlights Jazbeh’s versatility on the qanoun, a harp-like instrument that lays across the lap and is considered a precursor to the modern piano. Jazbeh began his musical studies in his hometown of Aleppo, then trained at the Higher Institute of Music in Damascus.

ab67616d00001e02a6222c4b97ed38b952650492 | Playlist: The music of Syrian exile | The Paradise

Why I chose this song: I interviewed Yamm in Konya, a Turkish city south of Ankara, in the summer of 2021. Originally from the northern port city of Latakia, Yamm wrote his first full album in his room during his university days in Homs. Having fled Syria, Yamm says he continues to make music in Turkey because: “It’s the only thing that keeps me sane after everything we witnessed in Syria.”

ab67616d00001e024e74152b1e22dad5b2d90cae | Playlist: The music of Syrian exile | The Paradise

Why I chose this song: Serkan Hakki is a self-taught clarinettist and music producer from Aleppo. This single is one of my favourites from his collection of original compositions. Recorded, mixed, and mastered in Istanbul – where he now runs his own studio and production company – Hakki brings the clarinet to life with this…

Read Full Story At: TNH.

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