Here’s an extraordinary tale of Syrian Refugee Rami who travelled from Syria to the UK with a violin, recorded a classical album and saw it soar straight to No.2 of the UK Classical Charts!
After travelling thousands of miles from Syria with his violin on his back, 21-year-old refugee Rami has now reached another momentous milestone in his journey. Following a first play on John Suchet’s Classic FM show, the lead track Ode to Joy – Anthem for Europe received an unprecedented and overwhelming response from listeners, catapulting the album into the charts at No. 2.
Classic FM presenter, John Suchet, says: “We started playing Rami’s very moving new album on Classic FM and since then, I’ve had hundreds of emails and texts from listeners, all of whom have been deeply moved by his story. This is a beautiful album, which we’ll continue to showcase to Classic FM’s 5.4 million listeners over the weeks ahead.”
In 2015, Rami was studying at a music school in Homs, Syria, but as war developed, he had no choice but to flee the country in search of safety. He travelled from Syria, through Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Austria and Germany on foot and by boat, often running and swimming for his life. However, through this exhausting journey, Rami managed to keep his violin safe by wrapping it in cling film and carrying it on his back.
After travelling from Syria to Lebanon and Turkey, it took four attempts to get a boat from Istanbul, and after the engine failed, Rami and other passengers rowed through the night until they were picked up by the Greek coast guards and taken to Kos.
Rami says, “I arrived and I was so tired. I slept together with the violin because I was scared of someone stealing it.”
From Athens, Rami travelled to Macedonia. At a camp on the border, he started to play a beautiful Arabic-influenced version of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ for his fellow refugees, and was heard by journalists. He then travelled to Serbia, where he spoke to journalists about the bad living conditions. Rami was punished for his actions, separated from his friends and deprived of food and drink – until a security guard noticed the violin and Rami started to play for him. Rami explains, “This made him very happy. He started to film me and then spoke to his wife. He got a lot of enjoyment from this.” The security guard reunited Rami with his friends and they continued on the next stage of their journey from Belgrade to Budapest by train.
After Rami was thrown off the train by police, he walked through the forest from Budapest with a friend. However, police caught up with them, and running in different directions, Rami became separated from his friend – and his violin! Rami was taken to a camp, which he described as “so bad and so sad” with everyone living in tents in hot and dusty conditions. He left the camp and travelled through the night to Austria, onward to Munich and Sasbachwalden in Germany. He was given refuge there and – after telling his story to a local woman – he was handed another violin.
Rami was then transferred to a sports hall in Lahr, filled with bunk beds and more than 200 families. He found a local church to pray and practise in – and a photo of him playing violin there appeared in a local newspaper. After seeing this, a German couple offered him a room in their house and gave him the chance to practise his violin in quiet and taught him German. This marked the start of a new chapter for Rami, which led to him making his very first album.
Recorded near Rami’s new home in Germany by award winning producers James Morgan and Juliette Pochin, the album brings together traditional music from Rami’s Arabian roots, and classical influences from the West. Alongside Beethoven’s beloved work, the album features ‘Nimrod’ from Elgar’s Enigma Variations, a classical version of One Republic’s ‘Counting Stars’ and a poignant rendition of ‘Silent Night’.
‘My Journey’ tells the incredible tale of Rami, the violinist who travelled more than 4,000km across 8 countries, risking his life to find safety with nothing but music to give him hope.