For the love of music

How a Syrian refugee uses music to build community and spread a message of peace and humanity in Jordan

Mohammad Batah
Jun 26, 2018 · 3 min read

A prized possession

Against a backdrop of war and siege, Mustafa Alsagheer fled his home in Aleppo in 2012 with his beloved family; they sought refuge in Jordan.

The 47-year-old Syrian musician brought one prized possession with him — his vintage qanun — worth US$ 4,000. The qanun, similar to the harp, is a Middle Eastern string instrument that features in traditional Arabic music.

Back in Syria in 1992, Mustafa’s love of music drove him to form a band called Salateen Al Tarab. The group of musicians traveled across the Middle East and internationally to Germany, Canada and the U.S. to perform their music. Unfortunately, the war in Syria forced the musicians to flee and ended the band’s legacy.

Mustafa carrying his qanun in Azraq refugee camp, Jordan. Photo: WFP / Mohammad Batah

Hardship in Jordan

Shortly after settling in Jordan, Mustafa’s family received devastating news: his teenage daughter Sara was diagnosed with cancer. The only way he could afford the expensive surgery to save her life was to sell his qanun.

This money coupled with the family’s savings, covered the cost of Sara’s treatment and thankfully led to her full and speedy recovery. Mustafa says his daughter’s health is more valuable than money or worldly possessions.

However, the expensive healthcare bills pushed the Alsagheer family to the edge with very little means to make ends meet. Support from the World Food Programme (WFP) provided a much needed boost for the family. Every month, each member of Mustafa’s family receives US$32 on an electronic card to buy food.

With WFP’s ‘choice’ programme, they can choose to use their card to buy food directly from shops, to withdraw cash from an ATM or both. This flexibility helps them purchase high quality, fresh foods at the best prices.

Salateen Al Tarab band performing at WFP’s mother’s day celebration in Azraq refugee camp to show appreciation to the mothers who work in WFP’s healthy kitchens. The joyous event was attended by moms, children and their families. Photo: WFP / Mohammad Batah

The love of music continues

After Sara’s recovery, Mustafa managed to save some money and buy a new, more affordable qanun. Although it isn’t his original antique, it still allows him to continue his passion of spreading joy and peace through music.

“With what I have gone through, music now goes far beyond playing qanun. I’m telling a story trying to make people believe in music, peace and humanity,” Mustafa said. “Through music, I want to persuade people that there are good things in life.”

Click here to listen to Salateen Al Tarab’s mother’s day performance in Azraq camp.

Mustafa has used music to form a new band in Jordan also named Salateen Al Tarab in honour of his original band from Syria. The new band includes both Syrian refugee and Jordanian musicians and has built a sense of community and friendship among them. They perform at events in refugee camps and in Jordanian cities trying to spread their message of peace through their lyrics.

“With what I have gone through, music now goes far beyond playing qanun. I’m telling a story trying to make people believe in music, peace and humanity.”

“When we perform to those who have been affected by conflicts we aim to take them on a journey sharing their heritage of music and to make them feel that life is gift and bring them happiness,” Mustafa said.

Mustafa with the Salateen Al Tarab band members in Azraq refugee camp. Photo: WFP / Mohammad Batah

Thanks to generous contributions from USAID, WFP is able to continue its support to Mustafa’s family, to thousands of Syrian refugees living in Jordan and to vulnerable Jordanian families across the country.

Read more about WFP’s work in Jordan.

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme

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