Refugees rehearse for musical journey from Syria to Tibet


In a bid to highlight the rich cultures of many refugees’ home countries, a group of refugee musicians in Belgium have been brought together to make a unique album that blends their homelands’ musical styles together.

The ‘Refugees for Refugees,’ project is run by musicologist Tristan Driessens on behalf of Belgian music school Muziekpublique, and aims to raise money for refugees with an album and a series of concerts.

Driessens said he accepted the project on the condition that he would not have to compromise the authenticity of the various styles of music that he had to bring together.

‘Refugees for Refugees’ is a side project for Driessens, 35, who since 2011 heads the Lamekan Ensemble, a group dedicated to the resurrection of the Ottoman sultans’ court music.

With artists coming from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tibet – all based in Belgium and all refugees – the project presented the participating musicians with a challenge of making theirmusic fit with their colleagues’ different styles.

Pakistani musician Asad Qizilbash, who taught himself to play the sarod after learning the violin from the age of five, said the disc’s recording and subsequent tour were a learning experience.


One of Pakistan’s best known players of the sarod, a stringed instrument with roots in Afghanistan, Qizilbash, 53, fled his country in 2010 after militant groups vandalised his musicschool and threatened him. He moved to Belgium where he had friends and was granted refugee status in 2012.

Like Qizilbash, Syrian ney player Tammam Al-Ramadan, was born into a family of musicians. He said the project allowed him to shed a positive light on his country’s culture.

Al-Ramadan, 25, arrived in Belgium in 2014 because of the bombing of his native city of Aleppo, which had been one of the main centres of Arabic classical music for centuries.

After their performance in the Flemish town of Kortrijk, the 10-musician strong music group will embark on a tour with concerts in Switzerland on June 24 and France on July 16 before returning to Belgium for ten more concerts.

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