Three young people playing musical instruments
Image credit: Jean Milad

Preserving and promoting traditional Syrian music and musical instrument making among refugee communities

Basma El Husseiny, Director of Action for Hope, tells us about the organisation’s Music Schools for Refugees, a project that was supported by the Cultural Protection Fund:

"The Music Schools provide children and young men and women living in refugee and marginalised communities in Lebanon and Jordan with the creative skills and tools needed to communicate, and to express themselves freely and creatively, as well as to enable them to work professionally as musicians.

The schools also help to preserve the traditional music heritage of refugee and marginalised communities through learning and practice and enriching cultural life in Lebanon and Jordan with new artistic work made by young artists who come from these communities.

The curriculum centres around learning traditional Syrian and other Arabic music and includes classes in solfege, singing, rhythm skills, music theory, music history and instrumental skills. The range of instruments played by students includes oud, bouzouk, percussion, ney, clarinet, saxophone, violin, cello and accordion.

When you watch a young person learning music, there are many beautiful moments, although of course there are also many frustrating moments too!

I love the moment when a student gets the instrument to play for the first time. When this happens, it is like a small miracle. I feel like a five-year old watching a magician pull out a rabbit from his sleeve!

Another special moment is when the first-year students appear on stage for the first time at their end-of-year concert in front of their families and friends. The proud smiles and tears on the faces of parents are priceless.

I think the most rewarding thing about the music schools is that we were able to prove that refugee and marginalised communities value art the same as middle-class urban communities. In fact these communities take particular pride in their cultural heritage and regard it as an asset. This is proven by the steady increase in audience numbers and applications to the music schools, and by the support families give to their musically talented children.”

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