Syrian refugees have formed traditional “Arada” musical groups in some German cities. Representatives from the groups say the goal is to preserve the Arab Levantine heritage and show its beauty to the Germans - with some of the pieces even being written in the German language.
After Abu Diab arrived in Germany three years ago, he wanted to regain some of his past memories of Syria. He was the leader of the Syrian “Arada” ensemble in Damascus, which was founded more than 30 years ago. Abu Diab told InfoMigrants that he founded his band in 1986, and participated in several Syrian series, such as the “Shami Days” and “The Old Ones.” He continued: “After coming to Germany, I could not live without the “Arada” folk music. We preserve our heritage and our children see it so as not to forget their traditions.”
The “Arada” music style is characterized in the Syrian capital Damascus, where popular songs are recited by the band’s leader, to be followed by the members of the band. The Zajal and the songs accompany the drum rhythms and the melody of the mizmar (or the modern trumpet). From the copper circular plates carried by the young man and beat them together to give it a rhythm. At times, there are performances of sword fencing and cymbals, which is some of the gear of the band members.
Syrian Folk songs in German language
Abu Diab says that each occasion has its own hymns, so the wedding and wedding celebrations focus on the groom’s praise, his morals and his proportions. He adds: “In weddings, we say, for example, the bridegroom is waiting for us” And continues: “On popular or religious occasions, we repeat the words of the songs.”
The Levant ensemble participated in the Spring Festival in Wuppertal and was admired by the Germans, Abu Diab said. “The Germans and the Arabs were dancing with the Arabs to the tune of the popular songs we were repeating.”
It may be the interaction with the Germans that prompted Abu Diab to write Germans in the songs and passed the intermediate B1 German exam. “I wrote some simple words for the Germans to understand when we repeated the songs in the show,” he said. In the city of Hanover there is the Ghazlan Al Sham group, founded two years ago by Amer Ghazal, known as Abu Fahad, who comes from the well-known district of Shaghur. He says that his establishment came at the request of many friends and family. “For us, if there is no folk music at an occasion or a wedding, our joy is not complete.”
The “Arada” folks groups wear the traditional Shami dress, which includes a bra that is worn on top of the shirt that is made of wool and laminated cloth. The shawl is wrapped around the waist, in addition to loose trousers. The show which is called the kasriya, is light and tapered and wears a white hat. Sometimes the group members wear the Arabic kufiya scarf.
Participation in various festivals and events
Although the “Arada” folk music style is often present at weddings, the work of “Arada” groups in Germany is not limited to just those events. Abu Fahd told InfoMigrants that they play at the opening of shops and on birthdays and even during the reception of some people at airports, in addition to weddings
In the same city (Hanover) there is a band by the name of the Syrian series Bab al-Hara, founded by Abu al-Ezz al-Shami several months ago. Al Shami says that their main goal is to create a beautiful atmosphere for Syrian and Arab families, in addition to showing the aesthetics of the Syrian music to the Germans. He adds to InfoMigrants that they are “expressing their joy in our performance.”
The difficulties facing them according to Shami, are related to financial aspects. “If we are better financially supported, we will be able to develop our style better, but unfortunately, the group’s work has not yet become a source of livelihood in Germany,” he said. “We do not want financial assistance. We just want logistical and moral assistance,” said Abu Diab, the head of the group.