Syrian orchestra reunites in London supported by Blur frontman

Wed Jan 20, 2016 12:16pm EST
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By Alex Whiting

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Syrian orchestra whose members have fled the country's civil war to different parts of the globe is reuniting in London for a rare concert which they say will show people another side of their country.

The Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music, which includes musicians from different perspectives of Syria's war, will perform on June 25 with songwriter and producer Damon Albarn, frontman of the band Blur, and other guest performers.

"This concert is a wonderful opportunity to show the world another side to the Syrian story – joy and a celebration of our music and culture," said the orchestra's principal conductor Issam Rafea, who now lives in the United States.

"The fabric of Syrian society has been torn apart as a result of the conflict," he said.

"There will be people representing both sides of the argument present both on stage and in the audience. But all are in agreement that we want it to end."

Rafea, who was winner of the 2010 Best Composer Award in the Dubai International Film Festival, and the 90-member orchestra first played with Albarn at the Damascus Opera House in 2008.

They later worked together on a track with the band Gorillaz which was co-founded by Albarn, and joined Gorillaz on their 2010 Escape to Plastic Beach World Tour which included shows in Damascus, Lebanon and across Europe and North America.

But the outbreak of civil war in March 2011 led to Rafea and the rest of the orchestra fleeing to different locations globally and this will be their first performance since then.   Continued...