Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Pianist from Syria by Aeham Ahmad


I am listening to Adagios, The Best Classical Relaxing Music.



This is one of the most poignant, painful and necessary reads for everyone who lives in the First World.

Aeham Ahmad starts the book describing his life as a Palestinian refugee in Yarmouk, a suburb of Damascas. Life isn't easy with a scary government, and corruption in every facet of life. Even getting a decent schooling is extremely hard to attain. Even if you are rich and can afford the best schools, many of the teachers there got their positions by means other than ability, so good luck with that.

On top of that, Ahmad, coming from a lower class, is treated with contempt. Nevertheless he and his father, both musicians, are determined to pursue Ahmad's dream of being a concert pianist.

After school, Ahmad, with his father start a musical instrument business where they provide both instruments and lessons. He gets married, has children.

As a Westerner, I found Ahmad's descriptions of his life and culture, how he met and married his wife (very different from here) interesting from a cultural point of view. His family immediate and extended live in the same apartment building. Life without your family members is unthinkable.

Life in Yarmouk is walking on eggshells to make sure you do nothing to tick off the government and end up in one of their torture chambers, conveniently located beneath the government capital. This is normal. His brother disappeared for an unknown reason and has never been seen again.

As difficult maintaining this balance is, it all comes crashing down as war between Isis and the government escalates. By the end of a year, Yarmouk is a pile of rubble. People are eating grass to survive.

Yet, Aeham Ahmad is determined to continue his life as a musician as much as possible. Their store is demolished, but no one can afford lessons or instruments anyway. Aeham salvages one piano, beat up and out of tune, and with his friends, they push it around the city and sing and play. They write songs, other citizens give them poems that they put music to. They start a children's choir.

Then one of their singers, a little girl, is shot down by a sniper. Snipers are everywhere. Some are Isis, some are the government's snipers. Lines a mile long snake around an area where the UN is providing food baskets, but only old people and children may get in line. If a young man gets in line, he is in danger of getting shot down by a sniper.

Does anyone in the West know what this is like? Trying to travel anywhere involves checkpoints and lots and lots of money to grease hands. If a soldier is in a bad mood, he won't let you pass. If you're belligerent, or if the soldier doesn't like your face, you're taken away, sometimes never to return or to return a battered shell of what you once were.

Finally, Aeham was able to leave Syria and move to Germany, but that journey is a harrowing read all by itself. He had to leave his family, some of them permanently, others, his wife and children were able to come a couple of years later.

I am looking at what is going on in my country with looting and rioting, tearing down statues of men long dead. Maybe those disgruntled First Worlders need to go live in a country like Syria for a while and get some perspective. Maybe even some gratitude for living in a country where you're not in fear all the time.

I wish Ahmad all the best and my prayers go out to every person living in such sad situations around the world.

 Here is a link to Aeham playing in Syria.  The video is in German, but you can see him playing on the streets in Yarmouk.


The Pianist from Syria 


ashok said...

Have a great day...nice post

Brian Joseph said...

Great review Sharon.

Ahmad’s story sounds like it is worth reading about and it is all too common in many parts of the world. Without a different Without a doubt, many people in the first world either have no idea or are oblivious to what much of the world is like and they have no understanding about the factors that create civilizations where most people are able to lead peaceful and fairly prosperous lives,

Ruth said...

I told myself I will not buy anymore books until my unreads are read....but I know I want to read this book. So, there goes that idea. These stories are the BEST! In fact, do you think it is something I can read aloud to my pre-/teens? I want them to hear it. (Plus, my son is a pianist.) All of my kids are privileged bc WE LIVE IN AMERICA! (My hope is that we never ever permit our country to become Syria. Well, California may be hopeless, but at least most of the rest of America.)
P.S. I have to start school, so I could not watch the 30-min video on YT, but I saved it to watch later at the gym....and I hope I do not cry.

mudpuddle said...

chaos is released by repression and intolerance... a good book for people to read, but it's pretty depressing...

Sharon Wilfong said...

Thank you, Ashok. Look forward to more of your wonderful paintings.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Brian! I agree. I wish people in our country would become more aware of what's going on in the rest of the world. Everyone seems to live in an insulated enclave.

Have a great week.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Ruth,

This story is heart rending, but it is age appropriate for teenagers. Nothing is graphic and much of it is charming. Very eye opening, not to mention the conversations you'll be able to have.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Ruth, I forgot to mention that I heard it expressed very well. It's not white privilege, it's American privilege. No one in America lives the way some people do in other parts of the world.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi mudpuddle.

It can be depressing, but there is also strength in how humans rise out of adversity. It should also make us grateful for our own lives. I think that's the problem with certain privileged people in our part of the world. They're not grateful for what they have.

Your assertion that chaos is produced through repression and intolerance is interesting. I would like to hear more about what you mean.

Take care! Hope you're safe up in your neck of the woods. Everything OK, I hope?

Stephen said...

I'm always amazed to read about the casual corruption around the world. We in the west take rule of law far too much for granted. It was a difficult thing to achieve, and we seem to be all to ready to let it go.

mudpuddle said...

we're fine... i hope you all escaped the recent hurricane/tornado event(s)...

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi mudpuddle

We barely got any rain. Louisiana and Arkansas got smashed, however.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Stephen

That is exactly what I think. I want Americans to become aware of what is happening around the world and not take their opportunities and human rights for granted. It does seem like certain radical "social justice" groups want to destroy our freedoms and produce a police state. It's scary.

Debbie Nolan said...

Sharon the music is so haunting and beautiful. Yes dear friend how much we need to count our blessings of being free in this land we live. There is so much terror and injustice in other countries that we cannot imagine living under such a regime. Thank you for sharing this review. It sounds like a great book with insight into what many experience in other lands. Take care and have a great weekend. Hugs!

Sharon Wilfong said...

HI Debbie,

People talk of white privilege, but it's really American privilege and I am very concerned over the insanity that seems to be taking place here. If this country goes down in flames, there won't be anywhere else to go.

But we still know Who is on His throne, don't we.

Blessings to you,