Middle East

Syria war: Refugee who fled Homs with violin releases album

Syrian refugee Sami, who is to release his debut album, My Journey Image copyright Decca Records/PA
Image caption Rami's journey covered eight countries in the Middle East and Europe

A Syrian refugee who fled the fighting in his country carrying a violin on his back is to have an album released by a major record label.

Rami, 21, was a music student and left the city of Homs in 2015. He now lives in Germany, after crossing eight countries, often on foot.

During his journey through Europe, he was thrown off a train and lost his violin while being chased by police.

But in Germany, he was given another instrument after sharing his story.

The musician travelled through Lebanon and Turkey to Istanbul. From there he crossed to Greece by boat, carrying his violin wrapped in cling film.

While making the journey, the engine of the boat broke down, and he was rescued by the Greek coast guard and taken to the island of Kos, where many refugees where being housed.

"I slept together with the violin because I was scared of someone stealing it," he said in a video posted by Decca Records, which will release the album, called My Journey.

From Kos, he went on to Athens and then to Macedonia, where he caught the attention of journalists while playing his violin.

Initially, he said, he performed Arabic music. Then he played Beethoven's Ode To Joy, the first track of the album, and also the European Union's official anthem.

Next, Rami went to Serbia, where, according to the video account, he was punished for talking to the media about the bad conditions in which they were being kept.

He was separated from his friends and spent days without food or water.

Rami was released only after a police officer noticed his violin. "He asked me to play for him, so I played. This made him very happy."

Image copyright Decca Records/PA
Image caption The album is being released in support of a Red Cross campaign

The hurdles did not end in Serbia. While crossing from Belgrade to Budapest, in Hungary, he was thrown out of the train by police and continued his journey on foot with a friend, who was carrying the violin.

But when the police chased them, both ran in different directions, and Rami ended up losing his instrument. He was later caught by police and sent to a camp.

The situation there was bad, he recalled. He decided to leave the camp and walk through the night to Austria.

The violinist then went on to Munich, in southern Germany, and finally to Sasbachwalden, where he found refuge.

"There was a woman who was helping the people [and] and I told her my story," he said.

"She introduced me to a maestro called Jochen Lemme and he gave me a violin as a gift."


A journey of 4,000km (2,485 miles)

1. Rami leaves Homs in 2015; 2. Travels through Lebanon; 3. Reaches Istanbul, in Turkey; 4. Is rescued by Greece's coast guard and taken to Kos; 5. Reaches Athens; 6. In Serbia, is punished for speaking to journalists and separated from his friends; 7. Is thrown out of a train while crossing from Serbia to Hungary; 8. Reaches Austria after leaving refugee camp in Hungary; 9. Reaches Munich, in Germany; 10. Arrives in Lahr, where he started practising at a local church


From there, Rami says he later moved to Lahr, where he lived in a sports hall which housed more than 200 families. A local church allowed him to practise and a picture of him was published in the local newspaper.

After reading the story, a couple offered him accommodation in their house, where he would be able to rehearse.

"I think he can't imagine life without his violin," said Theresia, who welcomed him into her home.

Rami recorded My Journey with award-winning producers James Morgan and Juliette Pochin.

It features traditional Arabian music from his roots alongside a classical version of the song Counting Stars, by American band OneRepublic, and a rendition of Silent Night.

The album is being digitally released in support of a Red Cross campaign to help people in crisis around the world.

You can listen to excerpts here


A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.