The pianist of Yarmouk: From rubble to record deal


Aeham Ahmad sits at the piano, eyes bankrupt and easily aerial over the keyboard. His articulation is abounding with affliction as he starts to sing the atrocious Arabic lyrics to his admired song, about activity in Yarmouk. Every time I comedy I anticipate of Yarmouk. I see destruction, accouchement arrant and bodies starving, Ahmad says. The 28-year-old grew up in the bankrupt adjacency on the outskirts of Damascus that was accustomed as a Palestinian refugee affected three ancestors ago. He remembers it as a beautiful, active community. His ancestor — a dark violinist — accomplished him how to comedy on an old amber Russian piano aback he was five, and as a jailbait Ahmad knew he basic to be a pianist. It is article in my fingers, I aloof can t stop, it is like a drug, he explains. He would biking hours aback and alternating from the Syrian basic to the conservatory in Homs breadth he advised the works of Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Chopin. Later, he opened his own music shop. Then the Syrian civilian war came, and afflicted everything: Yarmouk was besieged by the armament of President Bashar al-Assad s regime. Food, baptize and anesthetic became scarce, and abstention assassin blaze was a circadian reality.READ MORE: Yarmouk s boscage sums up 4 years of civilian warBut alike as a altruistic adversity abundant about him, Ahmad was apprenticed by an unstoppable affection for music and a atrocious admiration to make the accouchement smile again. So he pushed his piano into the ashore streets of his hometown and started to comedy in the rubble. I basic to accord the accouchement hope, he says. They had no food, no academy to go to. The neighborhood s youngest association would accumulate about the piano and sing forth in a attenuate moment of abatement from the war. Videos of Ahmad s ad-lib concerts advance on Youtube, and The Pianist of Yarmouk became a attribute of adventuresomeness amidst the chaos. Aback ISIS took ascendancy of the breadth in April 2015, the bearings got worse: The militants banned music, calling it haram (forbidden) and threatened Ahmad and his family.READ MORE: Miracle accouchement in Syria s deepest amphitheater of hell One day an ISIS recruit set the adolescent father s piano on fire; he could do annihilation but watch it burn. It hurt, but I wasn t sad about the piano, I had affluence more, he says. I was sad because bodies were dying in Yarmouk. His articulation starts to flutter as he remembers the time a assassin attempt a adolescent babe who had appear to watch him play. Her name was Zayda, he says.READ MORE: ISIS approved to blackout him, but pianist won t break quietAhmad knew he had to abscond Syria, so with the advice of a German journalist, he paid a accumulation of smugglers to get him to Turkey, and became one of the hundreds of bags of refugees authoritative the arduous adventure beyond the Mediterranean and arctic through Europe. He fabricated it to Germany in September 2015, at the aiguille of the country s open aperture policy appear migrants and refugees, and eventually acclimatized in the arresting burghal of Wiesbaden, breadth he was assuredly able to comedy again. A year later, he has become one of the country s best acclaimed pianists — and a attribute of achievement for those in chase of a new, peaceful activity in Europe. He has played about 200 concerts, won the Beethoven Prize for Human Rights, met Germany s chancellor, Angela Merkel and won the affection of a nation aggressive by his adventuresomeness and affection for music. Now, he lives the activity of a musician, traveling from burghal to city, arena up to three concerts a day and overextension a able message. And he has aloof recorded his aboriginal album. I am tired, but I can t stop playing. I appetite to accord bodies hope, he says. I appetite acquaint acceptable belief about Yarmouk, about Muslims and about the Syrian people. We are not terrorists. In May the adolescent ancestor was accepted cover in Germany; a few weeks after his wife and two sons were able to accompany him, but starting a new activity far abroad from home has been difficult for the adolescent family. My wife is worried, because I biking so much , he says. But I charge to accomplish a active for my family. READ MORE: Yarmouk is my soul: Survivors ashore amid ISIS and bombsHe struggles to balloon the horrors he has seen. I am advantageous because my wife and kids are with me now , he says. But I anticipate about the bodies that are still there, about my parents and my brother who is confined by the regime. I am afraid I will never see them again. It s a lot of pain. On one of his attenuate evenings off, Ahmad invites me to his new home to accommodated his ancestors and neighbors. We accept abundant Syrian coffee you accept to try it, he says with a grin. READ MORE: Social media saves the pen agent of Beirut It isn t continued afore his fingers alpha to twitch, and he sits aback bottomward at the piano, his two sons Kinan, 2, and Ahmad, 4, appropriately by his side. For a moment all the accident seems forgotten, and this time he smiles as anybody joins in to sing an old, blithesome archetypal from Aleppo. s Atika Shubert and Madalena Araujo contributed to this report.

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