Music, music, we play music

One year ago a group of professional musicians founded the MitMachMusik association with the aim to promote integration by playing music together. Twice a week, professional musicians visit children and teenagers in their accommodation at the refugee camps in Berlin and Potsdam to play music with them. The children are sensitized to listen to each other, to react and interact, to guide and accompany.

von Hiba Obaid

Photo: Christophe Gateau

“My brother and I used to play with pillows where he would take the white pillow and throw it off the bed while making the “boom” noise just like the noise the aircraft used to make while bombing us and I stayed underneath the bed playing dead…”

An eight-year old little girl told me about this play, with an innocent childish laugh, trying to also make me laugh. I looked into her eyes that were filled with stories, and I smiled.

I work for a musical project at the Brauhausberg camp in Potsdam which is allocated for refugees arriving from different countries. Twice a week we spend some hours with the children with music and dancing being creative, like colouring and drawing.

I remember that I first thought: “This can never work – having a class with so many children who come from different cultures, of all ages and speak different languages.” Many of them were not aware of what the word “Music” meant and how to make a melody with an instrument.

Ahmad would drag the cello carelessly the way he drags any of his other toys, not aware of the instrument’s essence and holiness. Nazira would hold the violin and play it in a hysterical way not knowing its sensitivity and the hard work that it takes to be able to play this instrument.

Considering the number of children, the room where we used to gather was rather small. We’d start singing and playing German, Syrian and Afghani songs. The children would start keeping pace with the music, some by singing, some by dancing and others by discovering their new instruments.

After a while, bit by bit music started to emerge from inside their souls. Music started to shape even their voices, I noticed after some time.

The nine-year old Sarah told me: “When I grow up, I would like to learn how a person can lead a band or a full orchestra. I know how to play the violin and I want to learn other instruments as well. But you know! When my father died he told me I should be a doctor. And I want to become exactly what my father wanted me to”. They tell me stories and talk about their daily life at school and at home, they ask and demand answers.

Most of the time, I cannot even imagine their conception of music and am often surprised like when I asked Raza, the eight-year old girl “Why do you prefer the violin not any other instrument?” This was her answer: “Because it is so light, I can carry it with me to school and home and to the park. I can carry it wherever I want”. While her friend added: “My mother cooks me dinner while I am here and tells me that it will be ready when I come back. I hate to wait and I love food so much, so that’s why I come every week to the music class”.

Another girl named Sabah would ask me the exact same question every time she saw me: “You speak Arabic, why don’t you wear the hijab? And my mother has to wear it!”

The answer was hard, how could I explain to a girl who is not five years old yet, the way I regard religion and my personal beliefs? How tell her about a society which is different from the one she is used to!

I just smiled.

The next day she interrupted me while singing and demanded an answer: “My mom wears the hijab and she only takes it off in our room, what about you?”

I answered: “Darling, when you grow up, you will know that there are different types of women. Some wear hijab, others don’t. I don’t.” She stood silent for a while and said “My mom has long hair, longer than yours”

I smiled, and we continued singing.

In the meantime our music project had its first anniversary. It has been a year and we celebrated, sang and danced. Everybody in that room felt the children’s joy and powerful spirit.

Photo: MitMachMusik association

I asked Rubella who is eleven: “Do you think music is important in one’s life?” She replied, “Music is important because it makes us happy.”

Another story is the way in which Marie Kogge, the violin teacher and project manager, is anticipated by the kids. Children would rush to meet her and hold her each time as if it was the first time.

After class, I could hear the children calling Marie “Marie! Look how I practiced playing the new song” “Marie! Look how I colored this” “Marie! I want you to play with me.” “Marie Marie Marie!” Their eyes clinging to her and all of them trying to get her attention, she wouldn’t stop being cheerful , always laughing and always pushing them forward, even if they’re still not far enough to play a melody.

I always wish I could go back to being a little girl, so I could join this big musical family. When it is music time you find a big team that is arranging for you to have all the possible ways for being creative, whether it is the guitar or the violin, cello, flute, drum, or the rhythm. I wish I had that opportunity when I was their age. They arrive at a specific time, take their instruments carefully and cherish them as if they are their little pampered kids. They impatiently wait for us, while their eyes cling to the music notes with all its colors and drawings, and with Marie’s directions, the lesson starts.

Hiba Obaid is a palestinian-syrian writer born in 1990 in Aleppo, Syria. Graduating from Arabic literature department at the university of Aleppo was a big step for her to become an Arabic language specialist. During her life in Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Germany she wrote for several magazines and newspapers in addition to revising collections of poems before publishing. She is living in Berlin since Oct. 2015. Here she is a member of the Tagesspiegel-Choir and part of WIR MACHEN DAS. Read more about Mitmachmusik and our author here.