One of my favourite pastimes is people watching, particularly when it comes to our students. I watch their faces and oh how I have seen faces and expressions change over the years. That would probably be true for many of us, right? Our facial expressions reflect our journey, the valleys and the mountain tops.
Our journey reminds me of the Euphrates, winding its course, sometimes faster, sometimes slower, sometimes uninterrupted, sometimes wading through murky waters that are darkened by unchallenged generational patterns and habits, sometimes tempestuous and sometimes glorious. Sometimes its path is straight, sometimes serpentine.
Such has been the journey of our Academy of Music. I use the term “Academy” with deliberation as it has taken four years until I could trust myself to say that with accuracy. Our music departments have reminded me of the winding nature of our great river. Our music staff are great friends, they were born and raised in Shariya village together, members of the same tribe, somehow inter related. Yet could they, and would they work together? Oh no!! Best buddies who God forbid that they should “work together”, “unite” or “cooperate” unless of course it is to take the daily “selfie” together.
After years of watching the commitment of the students, their level of dedication, the hours they put into private practice, even their struggles with families who wanted their progeny to pursue “more worthy” callings in life, I decided that once a month we would have a Music Recital with all groups, piano, guitar, saz, and daf coming together. An attempt to jumpstart unity, coming together with a purpose, goal and meaning.
That worked, but it didn’t. “The students were awesome. Our staff were lacking. “Miss Lisa I have an appointment with the endocrinologist on that day at that time, let the others play, I will join next time." Excuse me!! Or, "Miss I have to go for an appointment at the German consulate in Erbil, maybe I will leave the country, next time I will participate”. Etc. And so on and so forth. Often times in the struggle for music, I thought of Gertrude Bell, and forgive the total lack of context, but then, maybe not, “If we can pull this thing off, rope them together, if we can make them work together and find salvation for themselves, what a fine thing it would be." The Letters of Gertrude Bell. I share your sentiments sister! Visiting musicians would come and go, hold impromptu jam sessions on guitar, drums, keyboard and with vocals. Our students would come to life, here was heaven on earth, their vision was in front of their eyes, attainable, yet our staff were holding on to their positions of being the hindering spoke in the wheel rather than the spoke on which the turning hinges.
At the beginning of 2022, the wind changed. No more doctors, no more consulates. The wonderful news was delivered “I am ready to build an Academy of Music.” Truth was spoken and enacted upon. A new baby was being born. Natik went into action with a drive and dedication previously unknown.
Our musicians would barely go home, every spare minute of their day was spent hanging out in The Hope Centre, practicing, planning, singing, experimenting. The hills truly were alive with the sound of music. Sheer joy was on their faces. Today I proudly present our first joint recital or musical event which took place on the day following the Yezidi New Year. A wonderful new beginning to which families of the students were invited.
When writing these updates, the unfolding story of our Mesopotamian journey, uppermost in my mind has always been the verse from Proverbs 31;8 "Open your mouth for those with no voice, for the cause of all dispossessed". Through sharing small parts of our life, we present their voice, and also hand over to them as they discover theirs.
“I am Adnan, and I have been a part of the SOHF family since the day they opened. In fact, I was one of the kids who threw rocks at them because they built on the only piece of land in the camp where we would hang out and play football. I began with recorder and today I am gaining skill in recorder, flute, keyboard and rhythm. I love music. I live for music. My parents were happy for me to learn music only because they knew it kept me off the streets, away from the kids who were bored and angry in the camp. Today, they see the value of music in my life, they see how music has changed me, how the discipline is affecting all my studies. They have also come to understand that SOHF exists because of good people who love the Yezidi community supporting us, encouraging us and praying for us. My parents recently divorced and I moved to a different section of the camp. It was Springs of Hope and my music classes that kept me stable and grounded during this painful period. My Mum came to the recital. She told me that she was blessed to see me participating, to see my talent and to see the framework of love that I spend my time in. .”
“My name is Kovan and I am a guitar student. I am so honored and proud to be a student at Springs of Hope. It is my life, it is everything to me. The experience of learning with such a fantastic guitar group is amazing, we have become best friends and help each other. Natiq, my teacher is amazing, he constantly believes in us and quietly encourages us to be the very best. I had no experience in music before I came to SOHF. I have gained both musical experience and am constantly learning lessons for life. I cannot imagine surviving eight years in a tent without music. Wherever I go I will always be a musician. This is my soul.
“Music is the door through which we are able to step into the world of joy and happiness and to leave to one side the world of suffering and bitterness. Music, listening to, and playing is one of the few options where we can both learn and improve ourselves, make good use of time, and also deal with the deep seated psychological issues that we face, having lost all our life, and living in tents for eight years.
I can say on behalf of all my friends who are students in the academy, and with talking with those who were rescued from ISIS, that music is so very key in unlocking the wounds of the past, of expressing pain without using words, of allowing the entire body to detox.
We are using our classes and the entire musical experience as a key to unlock our future, to realise our full potential and to rise higher.
It was wonderful to see our families come. Some of us have struggled with our families who saw music as a waste of time, wanting us to learn medicine, or law, or to be part of the security force, anything, just not music. Yet now they understand our talent, and the destiny that lies ahead for us. My family, for example, now pushes me to study, they remind me when my classes are!! They were so very proud of me. I think it was the first time that they smiled in eight years since we fled Sinjar.”
““It made my day when my family came to see me perform. I too had struggles with my parents, but thanks to the support of SOHF and my teacher who met them time after time and explained my talent, I now have a university scholarship and am studying music. My focus is violin although I play guitar. I hope to become a violin teacher at SOHF and introduce a generation of kids to the beauty of this wonderful instrument.
My parents told me that it was a privilege to see me playing in front of a crowd. They told me that I was the best musician. They told me that they are grateful to SOHF for recognising my talent and helping me to achieve my goals, and they asked when the next event would be!!”
“I am so blessed and deeply thankful to the Springs of Hope Foundation to see my son’s performance in this moving event. I saw several things, the persistence and hard work of my son, how SOHF believes in him and pushes him forward, and I saw the love and care that everyone shows for each other. We don't find these qualities in our camp life. Thank you SOHF for helping my son and my community.”
- Barjas Khudeida, Radwan’s Dad
“Hello everybody. I am Wael. I live in a tent which is very hard for my psychology. I discovered my love for music when I walked into Springs of Hope and saw the students gathered outside, just playing, singing and dancing. I could not believe that such a thing was happening inside a refugee camp. I went into the office and registered to be a music student. I knew nothing about music, I just knew that I had arrived in heaven and I was determined to stay in this wonderful place. Music is not just about playing notes or reading music. Music is about sound, and colour and music is full of hope. I love music, it is my life and my soul. I don't know you but I know that Miss Lisa writes about us, and that you care for our community and you pray for us. Thank you. Please pray that I will remain in heaven with my music."
“I learned courage. Courage to stand in front of a crowd that this time was our families, not just our Hope community. I was brave and I stood in front of them and it was wonderful for us all. The recital gave me hope that I can pursue my dream and become a musician.”
“This day was a miracle. Healing came to our family. When I became a part of the SOHF family I learned that my dreams and goals are relevant and with dedication I can realize them even though my path is harder than that of kids my age in other countries. I learned how to play music, how to sing, as I improved I became ambitious and brave.
The music event in the garden changed our life as a family. My parents love planting and growing so they were so happy to be in the garden, to visit the tents where the cucumbers are growing. Then to hear awesome music, and dancing in the garden brought tears to their eyes. My parents told me “We are blessed, this is our sweet daughter who has restored pride to our family. “We all hugged and took the first family photo in eight years.”
“We loved the music event. It was wonderful for us as parents and also good for the community which needs to see life, colour and hope. It was great to see all our kids together, with good friends, laughing, playing well, and really enjoying themselves, something you don’t see outside Springs of Hope. As her father, I can say that it touched my heart, brought tears to my eyes. It gave me hope and confidence to see that Rozhen is moving forward, with a clear vision and a welcoming future.”
- ROZHEN'S DAD
“The Spring Music Recital was different from anything that I have ever experienced as a woman and as a musician. Firstly, Springs of Hope Foundation highly honors women, who are given equal opportunity.
Secondly the event, the success, the choice of music, both Yezidi, Kurdish and international sent a clear message to the entire community, both in the camp and the village, that horizons need to be expanded in order to give our youth a future. By learning new methods, we will not abandon our culture, it will always have a high place of honor.
Our families have not supported us. Particularly in the field of music and performing arts. Most of our families were quite derogatory. This changed with the event. They saw unity, they saw joy, they saw purpose. They saw honor, respect, and dignity. They received joy from seeing the success and the joy of their children. I heard one father say to his daughter, “I will respect your life choices.”
It was an event when music was put on the map of our entire community, and will forge the way ahead for years to come. Thank you SOHF for allowing me and my daf group to be a part of this exceptional family.”
- RANA SULIMAN
So dear friend, where does this leave us? Do we mark it on our calendar as a one time event that we managed to pull off or does this mark forward movement and advancement? I see the wheels turning with the spokes actually contributing to movement. Speaking with our Director of Music, Natik, he defined that which was known (and deliberately shelved by me, until I saw commitment), additional room is needed. The music room is tiny, it lacks air conditioning. The storeroom dedicated to instruments has been taken over. We need to build an additional cabin, totally self contained, with a storeroom and toilet. A dedicated space for musicians only. In order to do that, we would need to “take” space from the sports area, do-able but not the best. We called Mr. Ibrahim, our cabin guy only to discover that since the onset of the pandemic, and more recently since the outbreak of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, prices rose initially by 30% and then again by 20% putting the cost of a cabin on par with building with blocks and cement. In this period of time just after the Passover ( patience dear reader ) when the former slaves crossed over the Jordan and began to work to take the land, work to build, their entire paradigm shifted. No longer was there manna lying at a hands reach outside their tent. They had to get out, get land and work. The template and the pattern are totally different from that of Egypt, something new, something of course not easy when changing mindsets. As we discussed the continuum and expansion of the Academy of Music, I realised that given time, it would become ( as I had visualised seven years ago ) an Academy of the Performing Arts for the entire Yezidi community, both in the camp and the village.
Our decision is therefore to metaphorically “crossover” our Jordan, that being the dividing line of the camp fence and the hill beyond in order to request land from the Government inside the village, and build, with blocks. The era of constructing additional cabins inside The Hope Centre is over. We have an area in mind, one in the very heart of the village. We have no funds for this, we have vision for the healing of the community, we have vision for the musical future of our students, we have vision for them becoming so talented that Kurdistan will sit up and take notice of their success. So please be thinking of us, we have not yet completed the stable building, logic would say, hold still, don't do anything. Yet there are times when one has to try the waters, recognize the suddenlies that have been in one’s heart for years, and move forward for the sake of the dispossessed whose destiny is a legacy in the land. In HOPE.
Spring Music Recital Videos
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