Pub­lished on November 21, 2017
Esti­mate 6 minutes read­ing

We agreed to split up in the ear­ly after­noon to embark on two dif­fer­ent expeditions.

The fil­mo­g­ra­phers went with Husein to his uni­ver­si­ty to explore how he moved through an aver­age day, while anoth­er group set off for a meet­ing with Kush Radio.

Since Husein had gra­cious­ly agreed, we head­ed to class with him. He takes an hour-long bus ride to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Athens, but the trip didn’t seem so long since we were all very excit­ed to be spend­ing the day togeth­er. How­ev­er, we were not greet­ed with enthu­si­asm by his teacher, school secu­ri­ty, or pro­gram direc­tor. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, they were extreme­ly ret­i­cent to our pres­ence and almost hos­tile to the idea of film­ing. The UoA offers pro­grams, sup­port, and class­es specif­i­cal­ly for refugees. Pro­gram direc­tor Anas­ta­sia Geor­gount­zou explained how vul­ner­a­ble refugees are and how sen­si­tive one must be to so many dif­fer­ent forms of exploita­tion. But because Husein want­ed us there, and because he is such a beloved mem­ber of the school com­mu­ni­ty, his request was hon­ored. Even­tu­al­ly, we were grant­ed some­what unbri­dled access, and some of the per­son­nel even agreed to be inter­viewed, and we spoke in depth with the pro­gram direc­tor, stu­dents, and oth­er fac­ul­ty mem­bers. We are immea­sur­ably grate­ful to UoA under­stand­ing and sup­port for Lyrics of Sada.


We met with Kush Radio to dis­cuss mak­ing per­ma­nent points of con­tact in Athens and beyond. Kush is a Far­si speak­ing group that helps intro­duce refugees into the cul­ture of Athens by giv­ing lessons in Greek, eval­u­at­ing liv­ing sit­u­a­tions in camps and among fam­i­lies, reunit­ing fam­i­lies that are sep­a­rat­ed, and help­ing to explain some aspects of Greek cul­ture. For exam­ple, they told us, many new immi­grants from the bomb­ing zones of Syr­ia and Afghanistan are alarmed by the tra­di­tion­al East­er fes­ti­val in Athens, as it includes fireworks.

Through them, we were able to reach out to a pianist and musi­cian trapped in an abysmal camp in Ser­bia, also with a gui­tar teacher in Athens that was forcibly sep­a­rat­ed from his wife when the Euro­pean gov­ern­ment wouldn’t rec­og­nize their union, as he had nev­er received any doc­u­men­ta­tion in his life. He was a child when his fam­i­ly brought him to Iran from Afghanistan. As a Chris­t­ian there, he had nev­er received any recog­ni­tion as a cit­i­zen. Grow­ing up in Iran, he had mar­ried there with a Mus­lim woman, and when they immi­grat­ed to the island deten­tion cen­ters in Les­bos, the gov­ern­ment gave her entry into the main­land but left him in lim­bo. He had some­how made his way to Athens and employed him­self as a gui­tar teacher. This very resource­ful young man had taught him­self many valu­able skills such as car­pen­try. (Kush told us that every­one that lived near him in les­bos had a shoe rack made of pal­lets, for instance) When we asked Kush if they knew of any female musi­cians liv­ing in the camps around Athens, they told us that it was rare to find female musi­cians in the Far­si speak­ing com­mu­ni­ties com­ing from Iran and Afghanistan. It had been ille­gal or restrict­ed for females to sing, play music, or have indi­vid­ual voic­es in these gov­ern­ments. Thus, women musi­cians would be reluc­tant to present them­selves as such in pub­lic. Because of the rar­i­ty of female musi­cians, there were few trapped in the camps, they said. They were too much in demand.

Kush Radio had many sto­ries to tell. So many NGOs call them­selves suc­cess­ful, despite the numer­ous com­plaints of abuse by ben­e­fi­cia­ries liv­ing in their camps, because they only respond to their quo­tas, not to the per­son­al real­i­ties of liv­ing in their camps. This very inspir­ing team seemed very much in line with the inter­ests of Lyrics of Sada.

After an exhil­a­rat­ing taxi ride with Athens num­ber one taxi dri­ver, the phe­nom­e­nal James Bond,” we arrived at Ampelokipi metro sta­tion to meet Zoe Proko­pi­ou, a musi­col­o­gy stu­dent at the same uni­ver­si­ty as Husein, and pro­fes­sion­al vio­lin­ist. She had many use­ful leads for us and rec­om­mend­ed us to a record­ing stu­dio in the cen­ter of Athens. We look for­ward to work­ing with her in our musi­cal endeavors.


Lat­er at home, our group worked for a cou­ple of hours on inter­pret­ing a sin­gle phrase of a poem writ­ten by a Syr­i­an friend of Husein, which we had worked into a song. The Ara­bic lan­guage, with up to 500,000,000 words and amor­phous con­cepts, was a source of debate among three inter­preters. We had two bilin­gual speak­ers of Ara­bic and two Eng­lish-only native speak­ers. The word kawafy sucra.” was incred­i­bly ambigu­ous for us. It became almost a philo­soph­i­cal debate, last­ing into the ear­ly morn­ing, but we agreed in the end, intox­i­cat­ed.”