February, 2015: “I always dreamed to play music, but I never really had the opportunities. My family were poor, so I just kept the dream, just for me…” says Ramzi Aburedwan, the viola playing virtuoso set to perform at WOMADelaide.
He speaks to me over the phone from Brussels where he is now on tour with his band Ensemble Dal’Ouna.
Born in Bethlehem in 1979,Aburedwan grew up in Al-Amari refugee camp near Ramallah. His grandparents were forcibly relocated there in 1948, the beginning of the struggle for over 100,000 Palestinian people.
As a child, he was witness to the first intifada – the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation from 1987 to 1992. A photograph of an eight-year-old Ramzi, poised to throw a stone at an Israeli tank has been immortalized through time.
It was at the aged of 16 that almost by accident he had the chance to participate in a music workshop. There he chose his instrument the viola thinking it was a violin. He started to play and later took up the bouzok, a long-necked stringed instrument he will play at this years WOMADelaide.
It is against all odds that Aburedwan has gone on to become a world-renowned musician.
“It was very difficult, especially freedom of movement… the Wall, the checkpoints, the cutting of Palestinian territory”, he says.
The desire to travel outside of Palestine left him tired, and losing energy.
Despite the challenges of being a musician in an occupied territory Ramzi has chosen to remain in Ramallah. He splits his time between his homeland and performances abroad.
But there is no normal life playing and teaching music within Palestine.
“Everything is controlled by the occupation”, he says, including the ability to bring instruments in from abroad.
He describes the camps as hard places, crushing of creativity.
“[They are] very tight, small places with no playgrounds for kids, dark colours… no green ground for the kids, no trees, no infrastructure, nothing” he says.
“Thinking that it will only last for one week, or one month and then they can return to their homes”. Sadly this is not the case.
“We were obliged to create some play, for us when we were kids”, he says.
He has clearly overcome the bleakness of this landscape with beautiful music.
His ability to move between western classical and Arabic styles of music is a testament to his mastery.
Audiences will take delight in discovering the Arabic scales in his music which he says can be surprising for Western ears.
Be sure he will woo the crowd with searing tunes and heartfelt melodies of his beloved Palestine at this year’s WOMADelaide.
WOMADelaide, Mar 6-9, 2015, Botanic Park, Adelaide, womadelaide.com.au
BY VANESSA POWELL