The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians

A Syrian Symphony: Behind the scenes of an emotional musical reunion.

When their home country was torn apart by war, the members of the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians were dispersed around the world. Last month, they were brought together again for brief tour, aided by Damon Albarn. The BBC World Service went behind the scenes of the rehearsals.


The Q Factory, a hip rehearsal space in east Amsterdam, is the unlikely venue for an emotional reunion.

Here, 50 members of the Syrian Orchestra for Arabic Music have gathered to rehearse for their first concert together since civil war tore their nation apart. Many of them have not seen each other for five years.

“I cannot describe how it felt when we finally met again”, says singer Mais Harb. “There were lots of tears, lots of hugging, lots of happiness.”

Harb lives in Damascus and was lucky to get a visa permitting her to play this tour – which takes in Amsterdam, Glastonbury, London, Istanbul and the Roskilde Festival in Denmark.

“It is sad though”, says Firas Sharestan, who plays the qanun, an instrument that could well be part of the harp family, yet has 76 strings.

“We have these 10 days and afterwards everyone will go back to where they were before, and nobody knows when we will meet again.” Read More