Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Syrian cause and effect


News of Decca/Universal Music's release of an album by a young Syrian refugee violinist Rami leaves me conflicted. Of course the humanitarian tragedy sparked by the Syrian civil war is a terrible thing and any initiative that draws attention to it is laudable. And some of the proceeds from the project are going to the deserving cause of the British Red Cross. But why does a story like this only receive media coverage when it comes from the Universal Music spin machine? And is Decca's motivation in releasing this album entirely altruistic?

Above is a photo taken at the conclusion of a workshop for refugees musicians held this month in Arc-et-Senans, France. The workshop was directed by that tireless advocate of humanitarian causes Jordi Savall who is in the centre of the photo; to his right is the Syrian classical musician Waed Bouhassoun who collaborated with Jordi at the workshop. I am not on the classical music press release circuit, but this workshop came to my attention. So did it not also come to the attention of the Sinfini Music diaspora who so eagerly spun the Decca album?

Coming to that why did these lazy journalists not showcase Jordi Savall's Orient-Occident II, Homage to Syria album, or Waed Bou Hassoun's latest album La Voix de la passion which is steeped in the pain of contemporary Syria? And why did our self-styled cultural commentators not highlight the agonisingly relevant Zyriab from the exiled Syrian brothers Khaled Al Jaramani and Mohannad Al Jaramani? All these albums from independent labels speak of the Syrian tragedy in a musical language that Rami's renditions for Decca of One Republic's Counting Stars, Silent Night and Ode to Joy never can. Yes, Syria desperately needs help and attention. But for me at least, global brands, feel good music and humanitarian causes do not mix well.

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