Band on the run: A Syrian guitar quartet, silenced by war, plays again in Canada
Bombings and violence forced them to flee their homeland, then the Trump administration’s travel ban complicated their plans to find refuge. Now, a fellowship program has brought four musicians together again at the University of Victoria.
“I think these guys represent a narrative and it’s a story about music existing under stress and art surviving in situations of war and duress,” says Alexander Dunn, who championed their cause. It would turn out to be an 18-month process.
The men are now spending the year in the B.C. capital on fellowships organized by the Artist Protection Fund (APF). Based in New York and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the APF supports threatened artists around the world by providing fellowship grants and designing residency programs at academic or cultural institutions in safe countries, following a rigorous application process.
They are here for about a year, mentored by Dunn. They hope to make another recording and are also planning a Canadian tour, likely in the spring. They can’t, of course, play in the United States.
Gaby Al Botros, Al Sharaa, Mir Mahmoud and Nazir Salameh met while studying at the Higher Institute of Music in Damascus back in 2012 and 2013. Their peaceful middle-class Syrian lives had been disrupted by the civil war, which broke out in 2011. Violence and terror became commonplace; Al-Botros mentions 15 car explosions in his neighbourhood alone. Their first public performance was held on Syrian Mother’s Day in March, 2016, at a little church in Damascus. The conductor of the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra was in the audience. Impressed, Missak Baghboudarian invited Orontes to play with the orchestra. The men were ecstatic.
“Sometimes people have a typical image for people from somewhere,” Mir Mahmoud says. “When they see them as a musician or artist, they will start to think more about them.”
We are honoured to be able to present the quartet to the Sunshine Coast for 2 shows at St Bart's Church, Saturday, March 16 (sorry it is already sold out which includes comp tickets to hosting Syrian families) and one on Sunday, 3pm.
Learn more from the comple Globe & Mail article https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/music/article-band-on-the-run-a-syrian-guitar-quartet-silenced-by-war-plays-again/
For a video of a performance https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/video-listen-to-the-syrian-guitar-quartet-who-now-call-victoria-home/
Sun, March 17th, 2019 3:00 PM To
Sun, March 17th, 2019 5:00 PM