Friday, May 05, 2017

Syrian refugee records Ode to Joy for the Red Cross

A terrible journey; a moving tale; a fortunate end. Many have not been so lucky. Last week a young Kurdish musician was drowned while trying to reach his brother in Belgium, dying with his violin in his arms.

Here is Rami's story. His album is released today.

After travelling thousands of miles from Syria with his violin on his back, 21-year-old refugee Rami spreads a message of hope with his life-affirming debut album ‘My Journey’, released on Friday 5th May on Decca Records. The lead single ‘Ode to Joy – Anthem for Europe’ is being released digitally in support of the British Red Cross as part of Red Cross Week (7-13 May) to help raise awareness of people in crisis, wherever they are.

In 2015, Rami was studying at a music school in Homs, Syria, but as war developed, he had no choice but to flee the country in search of safety. He travelled from Syria, through Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Austria and Germany, on foot and by boat, often running and swimming for his life. However, through this exhausting journey, Rami managed to keep his violin safe by wrapping it in cling film and carrying it on his back.

After travelling from Syria to Lebanon and Turkey, it took four attempts to get a boat from Istanbul, and after the engine failed, Rami and other passengers rowed through the night until they were picked by the Greek coast guard and taken to Kos. Rami says, “I arrived and I was so tired. I slept together with the violin because I was scared of someone stealing it.”

From Athens, Rami travelled to Macedonia. At a camp on the border, he started to play a beautiful Arabic-influenced version of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ for his fellow refugees, and was heard by journalists. He then travelled to Serbia, where he spoke to journalists about the bad living conditions. Rami was punished for his actions, separated from his friends and deprived of food and drink – until a security guard noticed the violin and Rami started to play for him. Rami explains, “This made him very happy. He started to film me and then spoke to his wife. He got a lot of enjoyment from this.” The security guard reunited Rami with his friends and they continued on the next stage of their journey from Belgrade to Budapest by train.

After Rami was thrown off the train by police, he walked through the forest from Budapest with a friend. However, police caught up with them, and running in different directions, Rami became separated from his friend – and his violin. Rami was taken to a camp, which he described as “so bad and so sad” with everyone living in tents in hot and dusty conditions. He left the camp and travelled through the night to Austria, and onward to Munich and Sasbachwalden in Germany. He was given refuge there and – after telling his story to a local woman – he was handed a violin.

Rami was then transferred to a sports hall in Lahr, filled with bunk beds and more than 200 families, and he practised in the room with washing machines. He found a local church to pray and practise in – and a photo of him playing violin there appeared in a local newspaper. After seeing this, a German couple offered him a room in their house and gave him the chance to practise his violin in quiet and taught him German. This marked the start of a new chapter for Rami, which led to him making his very first album.

Alex Fraser, Director of Refugee Support at the British Red Cross said, “A huge thank you to Rami and Decca for this collaboration which will help raise funds for the British Red Cross. Rami’s story is incredibly moving and shows the dangerous journey refugees undertake to find a place of safety. 

The Red Cross works in countries spanning migratory trails across the globe. The funds raised from this single will go towards supporting our humanitarian work, supporting refugees arriving in the UK as they start to rebuild their lives and be reunited with their families.”