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In Yarmouk, Surviving A Siege Starts With A Piano

Against intense hunger, cold, and destruction, a handful of guys from Yarmouk Camp in southern Damascus have set up a heartfelt musical resistance. Their stage is the gray, shell-pocked streets of the besieged Palestinian camp, their piano is a battered, dusty upright perched on a truck trailer, and their original compositions are steadfast love songs to hope.

Pianist Ayham Ahmad explains in the group’s introductory video that he “loved the idea of doing something for Yarmouk, something simple, basic…from our humanity to yours.” The situation in the camp is, as Ahmad puts it, “really bad, and there’s no music in it.” But the veteran musician insists, “tomorrow will be better.”

Their songs carry the same message. “You can’t defeat the people…The tyrants can’t defeat our freedom, and life will go on, the morning will rise,” goes the sixth song, titled “Rain”. Others mourn residents who have died of hunger, and those who have left for other countries, calling them back to Yarmouk, “the lap of loyalty”. As Ayham plays, his baby–seated on top of the piano—claps along with the notes, echoing their promise of a brighter future.

For more info – Intro video

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Jennifer MacKenzie

Poet, writer and teacher Jennifer MacKenzie grew up on Bloomcrest Dr. in Bloomfield Hills, MI, which inspired her to wonder about places with patterns other than floral. Following her education at Wesleyan University's College of Letters and the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop, she followed a zig-zag course that included a pilgrimage across the top of Spain and a long sojourn in Syria in pursuit of the language of Muhammad al-Maghout and Moudthaffar al-Nawwab. While in Damascus she completed the books of poems "Distant City" and "My Not-My Soldier" (forthcoming from Fence Books) and edited the magazine Syria Today. Her poems and essays can be found in numerous journals including the Kenyon Review online, Guernica, Quarterly West, and Lungfull. She currently lives in New York.

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