Nicole Tung for NPR
GAZIANTEP, Turkey — When the highly effective earthquake rocked her dwelling in early February, 18-year-old Sidra Mohammed Ali wakened and considered one factor: her music faculty — was it OK?
The subsequent day, as survivors throughout southern Turkey have been taking inventory of the destruction and checking on family members, Mohammed Ali rushed to the college, the Nefes Basis for Arts and Tradition, and took a deep breath of aid when she noticed it was nonetheless standing, solely having sustained some minor harm.
“This faculty is my sanctuary from the stress of life as a Syrian refugee in Turkey,” she mentioned. “I could not bear the considered one thing occurring to it.”
The Nefes Basis was created by Syrian and Turkish musicians within the metropolis of Gaziantep in 2016. They’ve group courses the place they attempt to revive forgotten Syrian classics and combine Turkish and Syrian cultures with music that the 2 have shared for hundreds of years.
The college additionally presents personal music classes on the piano and Center Japanese devices just like the oud (a pear-shaped string instrument), the kanun (a plucked zither) and the ney (an end-blown flute).
However greater than six weeks after the Feb. 6 catastrophe, life within the earthquake zone is much from again to regular. The magnitude 7.8 earthquake killed greater than 55,000 folks in Turkey and neighboring Syria. It broken or destroyed a whole bunch of 1000’s of buildings and left 1.5 million folks and not using a dwelling in Turkey alone, in accordance with the United Nations.
The college had not been capable of resume courses till final weekend, when solely three college students, out of many dozens, confirmed as much as sing and play.
A consolation zone for refugees with a mission of integration
Earlier than the earthquake, the college can be packed on weekday evenings, with college students starting from ages 6 to 50, principally Syrian, however some Turks attended as properly.
The courses are bilingual — in Turkish and Arabic. And that was particularly necessary, in accordance with Ibrahim Muslimani, a Syrian classical musician from Aleppo, who’s the brains behind the group.
“As a result of among the younger Syrian youngsters have spent most of their lives right here in Turkey and are extra fluent in Turkish,” he instructed NPR in November 2022. “We’re making an attempt to protect our Syrian cultural id but in addition attending to know the Turkish id via artwork.”
Turkey hosts 4 million refugees, the biggest variety of any nation, in accordance with the U.N. refugee company. The overwhelming majority are Syrians who fled the civil warfare.
Within the early years of the Syrian civil warfare, which began in 2011, Turkey had a beneficiant open-door coverage towards Syrian refugees. However with out broad integration initiatives by the Turkish authorities, life for most of the refugees has been troublesome.
Extra just lately, politicians in Turkey who oppose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have scapegoated refugees for the nation’s financial issues, resulting in an increase in discrimination and hateful assaults.
“Racism has now, sadly, develop into a part of common life for us,” Muslimani mentioned.
However he is been working to foster integration via the college and its actions, resembling concert events. “We imagine that the actions we’re doing right here will decrease the social tensions and spotlight the richness of our presence collectively as Turks and Syrians.”
Mohammed Ali, who research medication at college and the kanun on the music faculty, mentioned final weekend the college has been a lifeline for her. She has a bleak outlook on her future, and does not imagine that the folks in Turkey will ever settle for her existence within the nation.
“However anytime I’ve an upsetting encounter, my Turkish lecturers and mates right here consolation me,” she mentioned.
A critical research of music
What makes the college so particular for the scholars right here is that the courses delve deeply into music appreciation and concept.
Rafeef Saffaf Oflazoglu fled Aleppo in 2013 after a near-death encounter. She comes from a household that is enthusiastic about classical Arabic music. To have the ability to proceed exploring her love of music in Gaziantep was priceless, she mentioned.
The college additionally launched her to centuries-old Turkish songs from the Ottoman archives, and previous tunes that traveled from Istanbul to Aleppo. Finding out these shared melodies made her really feel nearer to the tradition in her new dwelling.
Nicole Tung for NPR
Having to go with out courses after the earthquake was more durable than she anticipated.
“After possibly 10 days, I simply discovered, just like the factor I miss most is artwork,” she mentioned, despite the fact that she was dwelling in her automotive on the time. “Folks underneath trauma react in numerous methods. It isn’t nearly singing, you understand? It is non secular.”
For Muslimani, the earthquake was a triggering reminder of how he had misplaced all the things a decade in the past in Aleppo.
The shaking was so violent, that he feared for a second he would not survive. He considered his two little youngsters and the previous Aleppan musical poems that he says solely he is aware of, those he discovered from his maestro again in Aleppo, that have been handed down by generations of Aleppan classical musicians.
The civil warfare in Syria destroyed a lot of the nation’s cultural output, together with the lives of hundreds of thousands of Syrians. Muslimani has a mission to maintain Aleppo’s conventional type of music, al-Qudud al-Halabiya, alive from Gaziantep.
He and different Syrian artists additionally file music at Nefes.
“I promised my instructor that I might immortalize these treasured items in the very best kind doable,” he mentioned. “With the correct orchestra and the glory that they deserve.”
The way forward for the Nefes Basis is in danger
The earthquake profoundly disrupted life in Gaziantep, despite the fact that town has much less harm than others within the area.
The Nefes Basis, which survived on donations and charges for personal classes, is now at critical threat of closing down, mentioned Muslimani. They do not have the funds to pay for subsequent month’s lease.
The shock and worry of the catastrophe right here stays, as quakes and aftershocks proceed. Lots of the households who fled town nonetheless have not come again — and neither have the scholars of Nefes.
The lack of 1000’s of houses has additionally created a housing disaster within the area, with lease costs greater than doubling in lots of cities. And demand for fundamentals like shelter, meals and water stays excessive.
“To consider the last decade of labor we put into this, and the great distance we’ve to go in terms of integration and preserving our Syrian heritage alive,” he mentioned, pausing and blinking away tears.
“The mere considered dropping this place… it is insufferable.”