Artists After the Escape: Aeham Ahmad — When music saves a life

Snow covers the streets of Wiesbaden, softening the sounds of the busy metropolis. Only the crunching noise from steps in the snow ring out loud and clear. A young man is walking down Wilhelmstraße. He pulls his thin jacket tighter around his slim shoulders and lifts his face up higher.

“Could we do this once more?” asks the cameraman filming for the DW multimedia special “After the Escape.” He waves to the young man, who runs lower back to his starting role to do it over for the digicam. He’s affected the person, in spite of the bitter cold of January and his runny nose.

Born in Damascus, Ahmad now makes his domestic in Germany however nevertheless thinks of his home city

Here — and yet no longer right here

“Whenever I walk down this road, I constantly must consider Damascus,” Aeham Ahmad stated throughout our interview. “I don’t forget how my spouse and I would stroll thru the antique part of the city. We concept we had all the time inside the global.”

Ahmad’s Damascus does now not exist anymore. Innumerable bombs have rained down on it. Fighters have moved through the twisting streets, plundering, killing human beings. But Ahmad did not permit himself be deterred by means of that destruction for long. Nearly every day, he and his buddies might pull his piano into the ruins wherein he could play with a purpose to boost humans’ spirits, especially the ones of children. Friends could film him making track within the rubble.

The internet videos made him famous around the sector.

He performed and performed: to oppose hate, battle, starvation. Then sooner or later, a grenade exploded nearby, injuring one in every one of his palms and his face. Ahmad just slightly survived. The scar above his eyebrow and his runny nose, in an effort to now not depart, attest to that.

Much worse than these physical memories, however, are a number of his recollections. “Zeinab changed into a touching female who could always come and sing,” recalled Ahmad. One day a random bullet hit her, killing her right away. Ahmad did now not need to play the piano after that, but his buddies insisted that he continue. So he did — until that fateful day in April 2015.

It was Ahmad’s twenty-seventh birthday, and a pal and Ahmad’s father have been helping him to try to smuggle his piano throughout a checkpoint manned through the “Islamic State” (IS). The guards carrying Kalashnikov rifles stopped them and set the piano on fireplace due to the fact they recollect track sacrilegious. Ahmad’s blind father stepped in front of his son and his friend, claiming that the piano belonged to him and that he did not know the two young guys. That prevented what might have been a far worse state of affairs.

The fear that Ahmad ought to have felt on that day nonetheless radiates from his darkish eyes. It will probably in no way completely disappear. But he’s nevertheless open and boyish when he speaks. Once he begins speaking, it’s hard to stop him, and he laughs plenty. And yet, all of a sudden, despair can take preserve of him once more — like while he talks approximately his dad and mom, who remain in Yarmouk, an area of Damascus, or his brother Alaa, who has been lacking due to the fact that 2013.

Aeham Ahmad was born and grew up in the Yarmouk Camp for refugees. He is a member of the Palestinian minority in Syria. His father, a blind song tool builder, fostered his musical expertise from an early age. Ahmad commenced taking piano lessons while he was 5 years antique and later studied tune in Damascus and Homs. But turning into a pianist was in no way his dream; it changed into greater of his father’s.

Fleeing Syria, leaving circle of relatives

After his piano changed into destroyed, Ahmad turned into overcoming with fear. He, his wife Tahani and their two younger sons, Ahmad and Kinan, fled, but they did not get very a ways. Soldiers captured them and locked them up in a prison simply outdoor of Damascus. It becomes a miracle that the circle of relatives becomes launched some days later.

Then they made a totally tough decision: Tahani and the children would pass lower back to Damascus, however, Ahmad could flee to the West. He did so by way of way of Turkey, Greece, Serbia, Croatia, and Austria. He reached Munich, Germany, in September 2015 and became then assigned to the cities of Olpe, Kirschheim, Münster, and Gießen, before being allowed to settle in Wiesbaden, the capital of the federal nation Hesse.

Had the conflict in Syria never happened, the world would possibly by no means have heard of Aeham Ahmad. And had he never shared his heartfelt song with the sector, he won’t have been able to gain a foothold in Germany so fast.

Music opened doorways

From the very beginning, Aeham Ahmad had “pals” in Germany because of his videos. Famous German artists which include musician and actor Herbert Grönemeyer and musician Judith Holofernes invited him to play with them in visitor performances. Ahmad changed into increasingly more capable of earn money together with his track and construct a life for himself in Germany.

In August 2016, his best want became granted: after a yr of separation, he once again changed into able to wrap his hands around his spouse and his two youngsters. They now live all collectively in a small apartment in Wiesbaden.

But notwithstanding his musical fulfillment, Ahmad worries that hobby in him ought to hamper someplace down the road and that he could now not achieve success as a pianist. “I’ll emerge as promoting falafel or something once more,” he said. “I am Aeham Ahmad from Syria. Without my story, no one will need to come back to my concert events anymore!” In addition, he still has his damaged hand from the grenade to take care of, so he ought to never end up a concert pianist.

He can be restricted in technical talent, but his virtuoso, emotional pieces touch people where it subjects maximum: of their hearts. The “pianist in the rubble” may hence sooner or later become truly the pianist Aeham Ahmad.