Turkish and Syrian music faculty survives earthquake in Turkey : NPR

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Ibrahim Muslimani, 30, speaks to a category a few piece of music mixing completely different eras and languages on the Nefes Basis for Arts and Tradition, which he based in 2016, in Gaziantep, Turkey, on Nov. 22, 2022.

Nicole Tung for NPR


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Ibrahim Muslimani, 30, speaks to a category a few piece of music mixing completely different eras and languages on the Nefes Basis for Arts and Tradition, which he based in 2016, in Gaziantep, Turkey, on Nov. 22, 2022.

Nicole Tung for NPR

GAZIANTEP, Turkey — When the highly effective earthquake rocked her dwelling in early February, 18-year-old Sidra Mohammed Ali awakened and considered one factor: her music faculty — was it OK?

The following day, as survivors throughout southern Turkey have been taking inventory of the destruction and checking on family members, Mohammed Ali rushed to the varsity, the Nefes Basis for Arts and Tradition, and took a deep breath of reduction when she noticed it was nonetheless standing, solely having sustained some minor harm.

“This faculty is my sanctuary from the stress of life as a Syrian refugee in Turkey,” she stated. “I could not bear the considered one thing taking place to it.”

The Nefes Basis was created by Syrian and Turkish musicians within the metropolis of Gaziantep in 2016. They’ve group courses the place they attempt to revive forgotten Syrian classics and combine Turkish and Syrian cultures with music that the 2 have shared for hundreds of years.

The varsity additionally affords personal music classes on the piano and Center Japanese devices just like the oud (a pear-shaped string instrument), the kanun (a plucked zither) and the ney (an end-blown flute).

However greater than six weeks after the Feb. 6 catastrophe, life within the earthquake zone is much from again to regular. The magnitude 7.8 earthquake killed greater than 55,000 folks in Turkey and neighboring Syria. It broken or destroyed lots of of hundreds of buildings and left 1.5 million folks with no dwelling in Turkey alone, in accordance with the United Nations.

The varsity had not been capable of resume courses till final weekend, when solely three college students, out of many dozens, confirmed as much as sing and play.

A consolation zone for refugees with a mission of integration

Earlier than the earthquake, the varsity can be packed on weekday evenings, with college students starting from ages 6 to 50, principally Syrian, however some Turks attended as properly.

The courses are bilingual — in Turkish and Arabic. And that was particularly necessary, in accordance with Ibrahim Muslimani, a Syrian classical musician from Aleppo, who’s the brains behind the group.

College students together with Rafeef Saffaf Oflazoglu (center) sing a 500-year-old tune from the Ottoman archives, on Nov. 22, 2022.

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“As a result of among the younger Syrian children have spent most of their lives right here in Turkey and are extra fluent in Turkish,” he advised NPR in November 2022. “We’re making an attempt to protect our Syrian cultural identification but additionally attending to know the Turkish identification by way of artwork.”

Turkey hosts 4 million refugees, the most important variety of any nation, in accordance with the U.N. refugee company. The overwhelming majority are Syrians who fled the civil conflict.

Within the early years of the Syrian civil conflict, which began in 2011, Turkey had a beneficiant open-door coverage towards Syrian refugees. However with out broad integration initiatives by the Turkish authorities, life for most of the refugees has been tough.

Extra just lately, politicians in Turkey who oppose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have scapegoated refugees for the nation’s financial issues, resulting in an increase in discrimination and hateful assaults.

“Racism has now, sadly, develop into a part of common life for us,” Muslimani stated.

However he is been working to foster integration by way of the varsity and its actions, equivalent to live shows. “We imagine that the actions we’re doing right here will decrease the social tensions and spotlight the richness of our presence collectively as Turks and Syrians.”

Mohammed Ali, who research drugs at college and the kanun on the music faculty, stated final weekend the varsity has been a lifeline for her. She has a bleak outlook on her future, and would not imagine that the folks in Turkey will ever settle for her existence within the nation.

“However anytime I’ve an upsetting encounter, my Turkish lecturers and mates right here consolation me,” she stated.

A critical examine of music

What makes the varsity so particular for the scholars right here is that the courses delve deeply into music appreciation and idea.

Rafeef Saffaf Oflazoglu fled Aleppo in 2013 after a near-death encounter. She comes from a household that is keen about classical Arabic music. To have the ability to proceed exploring her love of music in Gaziantep was priceless, she stated.

The varsity additionally launched her to centuries-old Turkish songs from the Ottoman archives, and outdated tunes that traveled from Istanbul to Aleppo. Learning these shared melodies made her really feel nearer to the tradition in her new dwelling.

Contributors of a category sing a tune mixing Arabic, Turkish, and Farsi, throughout a session run by Ibrahim Muslimani, the founder and CEO of Nefes Music Faculty, in Gaziantep, Turkey, on Nov. 22, 2022.

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Contributors of a category sing a tune mixing Arabic, Turkish, and Farsi, throughout a session run by Ibrahim Muslimani, the founder and CEO of Nefes Music Faculty, in Gaziantep, Turkey, on Nov. 22, 2022.

Nicole Tung for NPR

Having to go with out courses after the earthquake was tougher than she anticipated.

“After perhaps 10 days, I simply discovered, just like the factor I miss most is artwork,” she stated, despite the fact that she was dwelling in her automobile on the time. “Individuals underneath trauma react in several methods. It isn’t nearly singing, you realize? It is non secular.”

For Muslimani, the earthquake was a triggering reminder of how he had misplaced every little thing a decade in the past in Aleppo.

The shaking was so violent, that he feared for a second he would not survive. He considered his two little kids and the outdated Aleppan musical poems that he says solely he is aware of, those he realized from his maestro again in Aleppo, that have been handed down by generations of Aleppan classical musicians.

The civil conflict in Syria destroyed a lot of the nation’s cultural output, together with the lives of hundreds of thousands of Syrians. Muslimani has a mission to maintain Aleppo’s conventional type of music, al-Qudud al-Halabiya, alive from Gaziantep.

He and different Syrian artists additionally document music at Nefes.

“I promised my instructor that I might immortalize these valuable items in one of the best type potential,” he stated. “With the right orchestra and the glory that they deserve.”

The way forward for the Nefes Basis is in danger

The earthquake profoundly disrupted life in Gaziantep, despite the fact that town has much less harm than others within the area.

The Nefes Basis, which survived on donations and charges for personal classes, is now at critical danger of closing down, stated Muslimani. They do not have the funds to pay for subsequent month’s lease.

A banner on the entrance of the Nefes Music Faculty reads “Two Languages, One Soul.”

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The shock and concern of the catastrophe right here stays, as quakes and aftershocks proceed. Lots of the households who fled town nonetheless have not come again — and neither have the scholars of Nefes.

The lack of hundreds of houses has additionally created a housing disaster within the area, with lease costs greater than doubling in lots of cities. And demand for fundamentals like shelter, meals and water stays excessive.

“To think about the last decade of labor we put into this, and the good distance we’ve to go relating to integration and holding our Syrian heritage alive,” he stated, pausing and blinking away tears.

“The mere considered dropping this place… it is insufferable.”

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