Why Am I In Turkey? | Ibrahim Muslimani

For every language you know you are a different person for each.

Photo taken by: Ferdi Ferhat Özsoy

His eyes were full of passion, hope and determination. I wanted to ask many questions but I could not even interrupt him when he was talking, I would feel guilt if I did because every single word had meaningful story behind for me and him. I would stay and listen to him forever. When I asked him “do you miss somebody?” he said “I had lost 16 family members and relatives, for who am I supposed to miss? My little brother? my uncle? my aunt? Who am I supposed to miss? — Ferdi Ferhat Özsoy

His Story:

In Gaziantep I was able to harmonize two identities that makes up who I am. On one hand a as Syrian, on the other hand a person who embodies the Turkish identity. The two main reasons why I am happy today are first, I am currently enrolled in Gaziantep University studying Film Directing, which I have wanted to do for a long time. The second, I have been able to continue certain projects that were started in Aleppo. The most notable one is the band we have formed “Nawa Band”. By doing these things, I am doing everything I have dreamed of.

I was born into a Sufi family, who loved Sufi Mystic Music. It became more than a thing that was a part of the family, for me it was more, it is who we are, what we needed to preserve. In 2003 my brother and I, started really getting into the Sufi Mystic Music. In 2006 I felt that I needed to dig deeper, to fully grasp the notions of the Music, but there was no academic , documentation and research related to the issue, that can be found Syria. Neither the government, nor intellectuals were working to preserve the heritage. Intellectuals who were well inverse of the subject .were reluctant to share what they know. I made it my goal, my motivation, to learn myself and to pass the knowledge on. I spent my days and nights to able to do this

In 2009, I started a very important project for the good of Syrian heritage, which is called “Nawa Band” project. My first and main aim of “Nawa Band” project is to deliver a message to my teachers, to those who are still alive or passed away, that if we were not aware in a young age about the importance of the things that we hold, as content and a value, we will never be aware about it even when we get old.

Photo taken by: Ferdi Ferhat Özsoy

All my dreams can be represented by the “Nawa band”. We have been working on Aleppo the heritage that was never written, like the old Muwashahat. With the“Nawa band” I feel that I am building something for all Syrians and Syria.

I can say that I became a man at an early. This was good, and bad at the same time because I lost my childhood totally. I don’t know what childhood means. I don’t now know children games either. Maybe because reading a lot in a young age and being raised between adults, made me think and act not in a childish manner.

Almost everything of my life has been destroyed when the Syrian tragedy took place. In 2010, I was determined, enthusiastic and very happy, that I had builded the band members to 12 and working on things that have never done before. All stopped right away.

I would like to mention an important information about me here. I left school when I was in 10th grade in 2007 meanwhile involving “Nawa Band”. In 2010 I realized that I have to continue my academic studies since I had to do it in order to have a university degree so I can represent what I have been involved in in an professional way and get a recognition for what I have done and what I will do. I took the high school national exam 4 times in a row until I made it in 2012. My repeatedly failure for 3 times was because of my interest and full dedication in learning and studying music that time. I registered to study in Damascus University and got an admission to study Arabic Language there.

I left Syria and could not enroll in Damascus university due to my circumstances since everything started to be hard, my family has been displaced and lived in shelters, my brother had died. I had to have some income so I can help my family. There were no jobs in Aleppo. So I thought of working outside of Syria in music and send money to my family inside.

I came to Gaziantep and worked for a whole year in things that does not have to do anything with music in order live and support my family. That time was the end of 2013 when I felt myself dead. I do not have anything, I was at the lowest point of my life. I kept myself in the house for a month in a totally isolated. This isolation made me to reflect and think about the future again. I decided to resume my studies again, it might give a better chance in my upcoming life, otherwise I will be working for many years without any improvement or achievements.

My high school scores were not enough to have a seat in a university. So I needed to prepare for the entrance exam. I studied for almost 6 months and submitted to the exam and I succeed. I scored 88%, I was so happy I made it. I was on my way to go to a university.

By the time I got my high school exam results, my family made their way to istanbul and they are away from the killing, shelling and had a ruff over their heads. I was so relieved that they are safe.

When I was about to register for the university I was thinking that I have to study a major that has something to do with the future of Syria. Where I can use my artistic abilities. I wanted to use what I learn from school in order to portray the beauty of Syria, the tragedy and its people. For me to show the art, history of Syria, the only way was through Cinema. While registering had to only choose one major and that was Cinema in Gaziantep University.

I didn’t want to study in any other city, I got attached to this city. Gaziantep became my second home. Once I got the admission results, I broke down in tears, when I saw that I was accepted to Gaziantep University.

Photo taken by: Ferdi Ferhat Özsoy

I was in front of a new challenge, I needed to first learn the Turkish language. It was a very critical, sensitive moment in my life because I felt I would not be able to get in, since I had to pay for the courses, plus I didn’t have the time.

I am so lucky I have made amazing, friends. I did not have the money, 20 friends of mine gathered money from each others and paid for the Turkish courses, for me. The responsibility to succeed just became a must, I needed to study and work hard because they put their trust in me and believed that I have to be in the university. Eventually I completed my Turkish studies. I just completed my first year and have the highest GPA in my department and now I am in my second year.

When it was my first year in the university I felt that I was able to retrieve my energy to play music. The last thing you might think of doing here in Turkey is to work on the Syrian culture and heritage.

We need to protect and have Syrian culture accessible to everyone in Turkey. All the Syrian musicians and intellectuals stay in Turkey for a while and then they go to Europe. So I thought how can I play music again, and do things that can bring life again to our hearts, that can refresh the passion in our lives. I think that was the most difficult thing I have ever worked on. If you want to keep a resuscitate and preserve a culture you have to first preserve what you have learned and build on it by learning more. Our culture is has been dying even before the war, the war just exhilarated the erosion.

I strive a lot to keep music away from politics. I won’t let myself doing music and politics in the same time. I do not see in politics a place for music. I see a purity in music. I want to do play and do music for myself not for anyone else to gain from it, even it if means I can gain more income. I want to do music for the sake of music, for the sake of the cause, for the sake of the country. As a result I am free, and the cost of freedom is much more.

I might be lucky. That one of my most important teachers in Aleppo lives in the same house as I do. We have been living with each others since 2013. Living with him brought took away all the distractions in life, and it was a constant learning processes, which made me focus more and be more determined. I am lucky because I was learning the music that I always wanted to learn in Syria, in Turkey. And now I am learning about Cinema. What I always wanted to became a reality in Turkey, I am becoming the person I am setting myself out to be.

After I learnt Turkish, I started to feel that Gaziantep is my city, or my second home. I chose to study Cinema over music, because ı was already well inverse of the ottoman style of music and have had training. I wanted to add more to myself. I have gotten to a stage in Turkish music, where I have trained myself to learn Turkish Folk music and preserve it. I have met many musicians that have been surprised by this .

Living here has gave me a very important thing, it has taught me that by learning society’s language I can draw for myself a leading path to love it. Language is a very human thing. The language has taught me a how the society as a whole is. The language has made me apart of this society, I feel like a Turk. This has allowed me to feel their concerns, happiness, anger, and joy. I realized how much it is important to be open to other people. The language has opened new big horizons for me here, it verified the Ottoman proverb that says “iki lisan, iki insan”.

Now, after I mastered Turkish and got back to university, my “Nawa Band” has began again. I felt that I got back my life. I have many running projects now. I have worked in conservatoir as an instructor. I am proud because, I could prove that music does not need certificates, I was able to gain respect amongst university scholars regarding Turkish and Syrian music.

Usually it is hard to get the admiration of the music professors by a young artist, especially when you are not certified as they are. It came to a point when one of the professors sat in one of my lessons to learn from me.

One of the most amazing projects I formed and was apart of was the university choir. I am proud that I was able to create love and connections in the hearts of Syrians and Turks with music. If you want to know what are my attainments of this non-profitable project, I can tell that I won the people. We were not only students, but law professors, doctors, engineering students. It has impacted me a lot. One of them said “we will never ever forget you, it is impossible,” this made me very emotional. Knowing that I could reach the hearts of everyone in the 2 languages.

My message for Turks is : “We are one nation, we really are one nation. Do not let colors, races, or blood to divide us. Let the culture, the art, the love and the land we raised on to gather unify us.

I am very proud I was successful that I was able to choose my way to become back an artist, not an employee, neither a gun holder or a part of politics. Because I believe that knowledge is the one and only way to build a better future.