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The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians: ‘When there is violence, you have to make music’

With war ravaging their homeland, the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians has been scattered across the globe. But five years since the violence erupted, the group are reuniting for a cathartic tour – and opening Glastonbury

Five years ago, the 90-strong Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music drew stars from Plácido Domingo to Gorillaz to perform with them at their home in Damascus Opera House. Today, with the bitter civil war still raging, its musicians are scattered across the globe. Some former performers of the prestigious orchestra and the choirs that accompany it are refugees in the Middle East, Europe and the US, while others are still struggling to live and perform in the conflict-torn country.

“Music, these days, is like a painkiller,” says Raneem Barakat, a singer in the orchestra’s choir. The 24-year-old regularly braves bombs and snipers on the roads on her two-hour journey to Damascus to study and perform. “You have to take the risk. When I sing it hypnotises me; I leave reality.”


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