On the sea he goes…

August 30, 2015

I had put an ad for guitar lessons in a few places online like Facebook and Craigslist, I got two inconclusive contacts then I received this message: I am not interested in guitar lessons but I would like to play with you, I am a violinist.” It was from Sari. Sari is an incredible musician, a violinist who has played all over Europe in orchestras as a guest. I didn’t know this at the time. I just had a really good vibe from the message, I contacted him and we set a time and place to meet and see what happens.

We first met at Galata tower. He was a bit late, he apologized profusely, we went to Chillout, where I was staying at the time and we got the instruments ready and started to play. His playing, his music was different, he had an immense passion for music, he held his violin with great gentleness. He listened intently as I went through some songs, then he played with a quiet intensity some of the music he loved.

From there we played a few nights at Atolye Kuledibi. What I will remember the most was the joy that arose when we played together, there was always at some point in the night when so much laughter would erupt, it was something magical. My songs, music are not what he knew and since I had no charts for most of the music, it was all about improvising, which he told me wasn’t his forte. But he had a way of enhancing the melodies, to support the whole journey of a song, and when the songs’s harmonies were closer to what he knew, he would take flight with gorgeous sounds and soul.

After the gigs he would never let me carry my heavy Gibson guitar and case, he would walk me back to Chillout, carrying the heavy thing and talking all along. That is when I got to know him more. Sari is Syrian. He spent the previous 4 years before coming to Istanbul stuck in a home that was bombed daily. He spoke of his hatred for all politicians, for money, for greed. He spoke of a brother whom he lost to the war, he spoke of his mother and sister, still stuck in that house, still bombed regularly. He spoke of the day when he was walking down a street in his neighborhood, fearing to be taken by either side; government or rebels. He told me that one day after having walked passed a parked car, maybe 3,4 steps further, the car exploded, killing those who were near. He would show me the videos taken from his house’s window at night time, flashes in the sky, fires raging everywhere around, bombings… He told me of how beautiful Syria was, how rich in history and how grand it had been. He told me of losing his friends one after another and how he should have been killed by now. He told me of the life before the war, his father an artist, sculptor, who had built their home, the good foods they used to eat, his music career with the orchestra, playing around the world…

Then he would get pensive and say: “Ah the life” “The life” for him was a madness that had been imposed on him and his loved ones. All this violence, all this loss. All of this willed by a few greedy, angry, sad and ugly men. All of which he had no say or choice upon.

One night after one of these gigs, as we walked up towards Tunel Square, he told me about the ships to Greece… That he would leave his violin behind with his best friend, and take his chances for Germany. He had been studying all sorts of options, through the forests in Macedonia, about not being caught in Hungary and all sorts of stratagems… the Syrians are very connected on social media and the news of a fair smuggler, a new route, a new hope travels very fast. He said his mother and sister do not want him to attempt this crossing. It is perilous, fraught with dangers and mostly, unscrupulous middle men can take all your money, can send you to death. My heart lurched with anguish. I argued the decision, suggested that he waits… There was a possibility then that he might be accepted in the Turkish music program in Ankara, at least wait to see if this happens.

That is when he explained to me that this choice, was possibly the only move he could make of his own volition, that to this point, all of his life was an incomprehensible and unjustifiable hell that had been imposed on him and all of his countrymen and women. This was his choice, this was his power to decide something. “I’m not afraid to die” he said, many times. He’s seen death over and over, death had been right next to him countless times “But at least this is my decision and maybe I can have a good life after this.”

I cannot argue with him. I see very clearly where he stands. What are the choices? Stay here in Istanbul until he runs out of money then becoming a “burden” a “migrant” an “illegal”?

I felt the sadness of losing him very strongly but at the same time, there is so much racism towards Syrians because of the 2 million plus arrivals of refugees who arrived to Turkey who is already not doing well economically.

He told me one day how “no one cares” in Europe and everywhere else, and he’s right. When I see all the inflamatory press against the “migrants” as if there were a mass of faceless animals coming to disturb and take over the settled lives of citizens. What people fail to see is that it is our Western colonialist ways with the middle east that have mostly turned the area into the violent mess that it is. When I see ordinary people’s refusal to open their hearts or even just try to be understanding. Lebanon has received over a million migrants, that is one out of 4 people there. Europe has had 123 thousand applications…. Lebanon is poor, Europe is rich. As too often we see the poor being far more generous than the rich…


In June he was about to go. I saw him a few days before his planned departure but at the last minute he decided not to. Too many bad news, a raft had sank in the Mediterranean, the news of how a Turkish sea patrol had gone by and ignored the emergency calls of the people sinking he then postponed his journey.

Three days ago, I could not stop thinking about him. I tried to message him, to phone him and I could not reach him. I then re-opened my Facebook account to see if he would still receive my message… he did. He wrote this to me:

“I am in Izmir now I am going to travel to Greece .
I miss you so much 🙂
If my trip is good I will send you a message later
I hope you are very well Dear…
Pray for me my friend…
Take care 

I was devastated. I wrote back to him and got this last message.

I’m so happy to meet you Danielle and so lucky
I love you so much you’re very kind ….you always gave it to me the good the energy

if I have a chance to start a new life I will meet you again and play the music together and record the new album with you I promise you

The life deserve the adventure…
Don’t worry about anything dear okay
All the love and respect to you dear 

Love and peace for everywhere

So there he goes, my beautiful friend, in the hands of Fate… I will pray, meditate for him every moment I think of it, everyday.

Ride Sari, ride the waves, land safely. My heart breaks at the thought that something terrible or terminal may come to you. But I also trust in you, in your knowing, in your courage and your strength. I know that at least this is something you decided and I know you have the inner strength to overcome anything.

I just wish for all of us in the west to be out of fear long enough to open our arms to those who suffer most. Those human beings who unlike you have lost everything because of circumstances beyond their own doings.

All my love Sari, be safe.



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