Syrian-American musicians raise voices as homeland suffers

Electronic artist and musician Samer Saem Eldahr
Updated 19 October 2017
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Syrian-American musicians raise voices as homeland suffers

DETROIT: When Samer Saem Eldahr finished university, he was ready to spread his wings and start his career. He planned a month away from home to discover and pursue his craft.
It is a similar story to many college graduates, with a notable exception: There would be no realistic option to return from Lebanon to his home in Aleppo, Syria, which was descending into war. He left behind his music and art studio containing most of his equipment and paintings.
Five years on, Eldahr has been rebuilding his life and art as a permanent US resident, living in Minneapolis with his wife and a child on the way. Under the name Hello Psychaleppo, he recently completed an album and is playing shows, including one Friday at the Arab American National Museum in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn.
Hello Psychaleppo is among several Syrian-American acts on the road, sharing music and messages about their homeland as the conflict rages on. The Arab museum on Monday will host Amplify Peace, a national tour presented by the Syrian American Medical Society. The concert, which aims to raise money for Syrian relief efforts, includes rapper/poet Omar Offendum, funk and soul outfit Bassel & The Supernaturals and others.
Eldahr combines styles just as he does worlds. He describes his sound as “electro-tarab,” blending electronic music with the ethos of “tarab,” an Arabic word describing music’s emotional, ecstatic effect often associated with traditional artistic forms.
“I tried my best to separate those two worlds, my music and life ... but at a certain point they do meet,” he said.
In performance, he uses synthesizers, not traditional Arab instruments, but manipulates them to provide the “microtones” — pitches between those found in Western scales and common in Middle Eastern music — by using an effects machine called a “talk box.”
“I’m trying to find the link between our music memory back home and the new modern tools and what can adapt,” he said.
Offendum, a Syrian who was born in Saudi Arabia and came to the US in the mid-1980s as a young boy, also feels deeply connected to his parents’ birthplace. However, he said, the crisis should concern everybody: Some 5 million Syrians have fled their homeland since conflict there erupted in 2011, including his relatives.


Pregnant Meghan takes break from Australia royal tour

Updated 21 October 2018
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Pregnant Meghan takes break from Australia royal tour

  • The trip officially ends in New Zealand on October 31

SYDNEY: Meghan, the pregnant wife of Britain’s Prince Harry, is scaling back her engagements during the royal couple’s 16-day Pacific tour, Kensington Palace said Sunday, ahead of their visit to Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand.
The royal couple have had a gruelling schedule since arriving in Australia on Monday, visiting Sydney, Melbourne and the regional town of Dubbo, as well as opening the Olympic-style Invictus Games for disabled and wounded soldiers.
“After a busy program, The Duke and Duchess have decided to cut back The Duchess’s schedule slightly for the next couple of days, ahead of the final week and a half of the tour,” Kensington Palace said in a statement.
The opening ceremony for the Games at Sydney’s Opera House on Saturday night was delayed after an intense thunderstorm, and the Duchess of Sussex did not attend a cycling medal presentation with Harry on Sunday.
At the event, held in The Domain gardens, the prince was asked by someone in a crowd of onlookers where his wife was.
“She’s resting at home,” the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported him as saying. “Being pregnant takes its toll.”
Meghan rejoined her husband for lunch with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, before watching a Games sailing event from a boat on Sydney Harbor.
They are due to attend a private reception for the Invictus Games Foundation at Government House late Sunday before heading off to Fraser Island in Queensland state.
But Meghan is not expected to take part in official engagements at the World Heritage-listed site on Monday, with Kensington Palace adding that “The Duke will continue with the engagements on Fraser Island as planned.”
The pair are due to visit Fiji and Tonga after Fraser Island.
The news came as Harry received an unusual request from some members of the Australian cycling team at Sunday’s presentation — if he could sign an Invictus pair of budgie smugglers.
“Budgie smugglers” is the colloquial term Australians use for Speedo-style swimwear.
The Duke of Sussex declined the offer.
“He told us he’d love to sign them but he wasn’t allowed to,” athlete Damien Irish told the ABC Sunday.
The trip officially ends in New Zealand on October 31.