In many ways, Aeham Ahmad is an ordinary man. The son of Palestinian refugees, he grew up in Yarmouk, home to 160,000 other Palestinians in Damascus. His father, a musician blind since childhood, bribed and wheedled young Ahmad into practicing the piano for hours at a time. His talent grew steadily, but only later did he develop a profound love for music.
Ahmad achieved his dreams at a young age. Still in his 20s, he and his father built a thriving business selling musical instruments and giving lessons. He married a strong, intelligent woman, and together they brought a sweet boy into the world. But in June of 2012, the Syrian civil war made its way to Yarmouk, and all those dreams crumbled beneath the weight of the bombs, mortars and bullets fired by both the Syrian Army and the different militias fighting against them.
In The Pianist from Syria, Ahmad tells the story of his family’s terrible deprivations during the civil war. His losses are profound, and it was truly miraculous that he and his family were finally able to escape to safety in Germany. Yet the true hero of this story is Ahmad’s music. Pushing his piano into the bomb-ruined streets of Yarmouk, Ahmad and his impromptu choirs sang out songs of protest, mourning and hope. He rejected the jingoism of both the Syrian government and the militias. Instead, his music illuminated the horrors of war, while celebrating the simple dreams of ordinary people caught up in a nightmare. His songs were truly subversive, because they served no faction. Soon a YouTube and Facebook phenomenon, Ahmad became an increasingly marked man.
Written in an open, honest style, The Pianist from Syria is a testament to the resilience and beauty of ordinary people with simple dreams.