I am a Palestinian refugee and music has been the moon of my nights all my life. It was my only refuge from the darkness of the camp and the coldness of the walls in our rundown house. In a too tiny area, full of inhabitants, you can’t sneeze in your house without hearing a complaint from your neighbors next day. I hid my family’s old cassette player under my blanket so I wouldn’t bother anyone, including my own family, when I ‘stole’ my listening to music at night. Headphones were invented, but they were too expensive for me. There was always this untold fear of music, as something way too far to get, way too hard and expensive to have. The shy dream stayed buried underneath my consciousness, a never-told story kept in secret (I love music). Many years later, when I became an adult and had a job, I decided to learn guitar. But practicing my first lessons at home, again there were complaints about the sound of my guitar, so this time I decided to quit it forever.
And then, with no expectations, I suddenly had the chance to get all the music I had once wanted. But this time, the chance felt different: it felt more generous, it was bigger than my dream. It was not to learn music, but to give music to others. I flashed back to my old days in the refugee camp, a place that was very poor, but rich with its children. I thought about what would happen to their lives if they could get what I had so longed for, but had missed. I felt drawn toward that dream blindly, impatiently. I wanted it to happen as quickly as it could. I wanted to see the children of Palestine, the disadvantaged refugees, having their dreamed-of instruments and playing for life, instead of playing for death, in their frustrated camps.
Musicians without Borders and Sounds of Palestine have been rays of hope for thousands of children in Palestine. They have brought a minaret of music for thousands of people: the perception of life being able to change, life starting to open her arms for those dreams. Music is a stepping stone into life, leaving a frustrated past behind, For me as a Palestinian refugee, Sounds of Palestine and Musicians without Borders bring the light at the end of a long dark tunnel: our real life where the future is ours and we will make it better.
Ahmad al’Azzeh is the coordinator for Musicians without Borders in Palestine and project manager of Sounds of Palestine, partner program of Musicians without Borders. Sounds of Palestine provides free music education and social support to children from refugee camps and isolated villages. For pictures of the activities in October, please click here.