(K. Brent Tomer),
“WE LEFT our native land, completely unaware of the biggest gift our country had bestowed on us: the gift of music.” So said Basel Rajoub, a Syrian composer and saxophone-player, when he and his ensemble, Soriana, launched their first CD in exile in 2013. A graceful meld of jazz and Middle Eastern improvisation, it was posted online so that fans could stream it free of charge. A neater expression of the truth that music lies at the heart of the Syrian psyche would be hard to find.
Six years after pro-democracy demonstrations plunged Syria into civil war, many of its musicians have fled abroad where they are propagating their musical culture. The Morgenland festival in Osnabrück, in north-west Germany, has long been powered by Syrian stars such as Kinan Azmeh, a clarinettist, Muslim Rahal, a ney flautist, and a mesmerising singer named Ibrahim Keivo. On March 16th, as The Economist went to press, they were set to unveil a three-day festival of Syrian music at the new Elbphilharmonie concert hall in Hamburg. The city has a large population of Middle Eastern immigrants, and Christoph Lieben-Seutter, general director of the Elbphilharmonie, is determined to make…Continue reading