A Dead Talent

The only language he spoke was music. He gave his listeners the taste of melancholy, imprisonment and torture.

von Marwan Safarjalani

Illustration: Claudia Klein
Illustration: Claudia Klein

He longed for the cheerful days when he sang against the regime. His knuckles were smashed twice by the traitors of his homeland, but the white cast did not alter his endeavors to obtain liberty from the cruelest tyrants of the 21st century. His wrinkles cried out for freedom, while he was crossing the Lebanese borders. He arrived to Vienna: the territory that forced him to bid a deathly farewell to his homeland.

Shadi was a musician from Homs. He lived in Damascus and worked with the ministry of culture there. After the outbreak of the revolution, Shadi chose his destiny by playing the symphonies which were then used in the songs of Hama’s 2011 protests against the regime. He opposed those who committed the crime, and was forced to leave Damascus in 2013. He thought that his Oud was the only worth-saving object he possessed. Shadi left Syria with an illegal passport in the right hand and his Oud on the left shoulder. He arrived to Vienna after taking the Balkan route with other immigrants. He waited in the international bus station with a paralyzed tongue, but liberated fingers. The only language he spoke was music. He gave his listeners the taste of melancholy, imprisonment and torture.

His fingers on his Oud drew the saddest notes of rejection behind European borders. His navy blue travel document was filled with the dark lines of denial. I met him in the station in Vienna, while his Oud was lying by the wall, waiting for a new destiny and a new note to be played. His wrinkles represented the sense of guilt of his generation who threw the burden of the revolution on the children of Dara’a. He liberated himself with his music, because his fingers were the only part of his body capable of voicing the sorrow of his mind.

Berlin was a shelter that did not stigmatize Shadi with any dark lines. He heard a scream of national belonging and decided to unhear it. He heard the voices of racism and tried to challenge them. He carried his Oud and went to Bodestrasse.  He tried to voice himself peacefully with his oriental talents, but realized that this talent disappeared. He tried to move his fingers, but could not do so anymore. They were healed from the lashes of the Syrian government forces, but were this time broken by the paralysis of immigrants longing for their lands. He stood on a Berliner bridge and a tear fell in the Spree. Meanwhile, his screams came back all the way to Vienna to inform all Syrians of a new tragedy. The tragedy of a dead talent.

Shadi leaves his Oud by the wall. He screams from the burden of hindrance, and asks for the revenge. He begs for his stolen talent, but the paralysis has suppressed it. He left Syria after the throats of the newborn babies had been cut, and the nails of the rebellious children pulled out. Syrians could hear the screams of the dead talent from the Marja square in Damascus to announce the death of Shadi’s children. His eternal peace lies on the sidewalks of the German homeland, but his undocumented journey stole his last soul. Death called Shadi to draw a new line and cross the borders to the enshrouded purity.

Marwan Safarjalani (born 1997) left the embattled neighborhood in Damascus, where he had grown up, together with his family in 2012. He lived in Egypt and Turkey, went to school at the United World College in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and is currently studying at Yale University/USA with a full scholarship. His family lives in Sweden now, and he cannot visit them because of the uncertainty in US immigration laws. Marwan writes in English, though his mother tongue is Arabic. This is his third piece for WIRMACHENDAS and it was translated into German by Sophie Zeitz.

Here you can read other texts written by Marwan: One sound two crimes and The picture of a lost generation.