The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians: music against violence

The Syrian crisis is easily one of the most tragic occurrences of present days, and sadly, there is no resolution in sight. As a popular quote, attributed to Confucius, goes, “When music and courtesy are better understood and appreciated, there will be no war” – and it seems like some musicians out there are living by these values.

Five years ago, a unique Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music (or in abbreviation, SNOAM), alongside with big stars ranging from Plácido Domingo to Gorillaz, performed in Damascus Opera House with great success. Today, the 90 piece orchestra is scattered around the globe by the horrifying war, with some of its former musicians embracing the refugee status in the Middle East, Europe and the US, while others made a hard decision to stay and perform at their home country. Although the latter is beyond dangerous, the performers are trying to do their best to lift the spirit of other innocent people surviving in the conflict-torn country by using the power of music.

One of the performers is a 24-year-old Raneem Barakat, who has braved way too many bombs and bullets to live in permanent fear. The young choir singer notes that “music is like a painkiller”. The risk, according to Raneem, is definitely worth it when it comes to soul healing, hypnotising effects of music.

At the moment, former and present members of SNOAM are reunited under the wing of the Africa Express music collective. Remarkably, the person behind the collective is famous Damon Albarn, the lead singer of the alternative rock band Blur and the leader behind the virtual band Gorillaz.


The logistical problems faced by the organisers were tremendous. For instance, the project was almost ruined before its launch by the necessity of getting visas for 50 Syrian musicians. A week before the tour was due to start, it still wasn’t clear whether all performers could get Schengen visas – without those, it would be impossible to book the flights. The rumour has it that the founders had to make some desperate calls to British officials, and subsequently hire an entire Boeing Boeing 737 to safely transport all the musicians together.

The difficulties are resolved and left behind, however. The collective is touring the globe, performing with stars such as Paul Weller and Bassekou Kouyaté. The Africa Express has opened a reputable Glastonbury festival, which was on from 22nd to 26th of June, 2016, and their vibrant performance was warmly welcomed by the audience.

On 25th of June, the collective performed at Southbank Centre. The performance featured amazing guests such as Bassekou Kouyaté, Bu Kolthoum, Eslam Jawaad, Faia Younan, Julia Holter, Lotfi Bouchnak, Malikah, Mounir Troudi, Noura Mint Seymali, Paul Weller, Rachid Taha and TALA.

The main goal of the tour, besides reuniting the original Orchestra, is to raise awareness of the ongoing Syrian conflict and its victims forced to leave the country by celebrating the incomparable music and unique culture of Syria.

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Tips for Musicians

Music production is not an easy task. You have to work hard day in and day out for the production of the perfect lyrics, perfect melody and a perfect song.

Musicians often look for inspiration from different things in life but the reality is that the best inspiration comes from music. Therefore, to help you get back on the track here are a couple of inspirational tips that will help you in producing the best music.


Loosen your mind

It often happens that what we have thought of a melody in our mind does not come out that way and it frustrates us. The key is to relax and keep your mind cool. Having a different aspect of what you thought might help you produce something fresh and new to the world of music. So keep trying something new with a spark of inspiration to it.

Close your eyes and open your ear

Once you have produced music and now you want to experience what it feels like you must close your eyes. It means that when your visual sense is working then hearing sense is given second priority. So to really feel the music, close your visual sense so you can truly hear what you have produced.

Be spontaneous

Instead of thinking of a perfect melody and beats, it is better to start randomly. We have often noticed that when you start forming a melody without thinking, throw some beat, percussion, and loops a perfect track comes out of it. This trick will help build your imagination and you will be able to produce some of the best and worth saving melodies.


It is a great way of learning how to produce songs. It will also allow you to gain the attention of your audience. Remixing the songs means that you are challenging yourself to create something new from the old best songs.

Lay it out

It often happens that you struggle either with the layout of the track or with the melodies. In such cases, you can gather inspiration and ideas from the tracks of your favorite artists. Copying the hard work of someone else is not cool so avoid that at all costs.

Just understand the way they have created such a hit song and break down the song into layers and understand how they have changed the riffs. This tip will help you solve the problems that you are facing.

Do not force creativity

Creativity and inspiration do not come when forced. Therefore, it is advised that do not make music when you are not feeling like it. Sometimes you might have to force yourself because of project deadlines. However, keep in mind that it might do you harm leaving you angry and frustrated.

Make your production house a place that invites you every time and surrounds yourself with stuff that inspires you the most. In this way, you can become the owner of some of the best music albums.


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Karaoke star: tips and tricks for your awesome night out

No one is going to deny that hitting a karaoke bar is a great weekend activity! However, for some people, the experience can be quite overwhelming. Maybe you’ve never been to such venues before, maybe you’re not sure how the whole singing-live thing is going to work out. Perhaps, you’ve done karaoke multiple times, but are still scared and intimidated.

If you really want to join the karaoke crowd, but have some doubts, our awesome karaoke tips are for you! Keep reading to find out how to get the most of your karaoke outing and have a time of your life.

Don’t go alone or with random people.

If you’re going with a group of friends you know, you’re pretty much bound to have an awesome experience – whatever you’re doing. Karaoke included. As a bonus (that is, if you’re not renting a private karaoke booth), you’ll always have a few familiar pairs of eyes to look at if you’re too intimidated by the general crowd.

Pick your favourite song (or at least something you know by heart).

If you know the words, the melody and all those sudden music changes within the song, your experience will likely be super smooth, as there will be a few less major things to worry about. If you don’t know all the words, but at least know the music very well – it’s good enough too, especially given that not all karaoke venues will have your favourite music available. The lyrics will be on the screen, which is kind of the point of karaoke, so don’t stress too much and go ahead.

Don’t forget to breathe.

When we’re worried, we tend to easily forget that oxygen is essential for survival. You may be surprised by how easily you can loose your breath in karaoke! If your lungs randomly shut down, make a conscious effort to breath steadily and don’t hold your breath – ever. This will make you sound much much better, and the song will flow.

No booze, please.

Well, a couple of drinks to ease the nerves – maybe, if you must. But for the love of God, don’t get drunk before going on stage! Especially if it’s your karaoke debut. Nobody likes to watch a pathetic wobbly goof on stage, so be in control of yourself and don’t get drunk.

Be in the moment.


Really embrace the song, tell yourself you’re a star – and loose yourself in the music for a couple of glorious minutes! Sometimes it’s our daily stresses and doubts that stop us from performing at our best. Forget about those, leave the worries behind and just enjoy yourself.

And remember – there will always be idiots and rude people around. Don’t pay attention to them – you are just a normal person having fun, not “The Voice” competitor. Even if you can’t sing too well, that’s absolutely not the point. You’re just here for a good time, and don’t let anyone ruin it!

Hope you have more courage to hit that karaoke bar now. Please do so – you won’t regret, we promise!

Mini Madness: Squarest Band by Dan H.

Copy of F - The Undertones Liverpool April 2011 033In honor of my parents’ recent visit to New York and a strange conversation with my mother concerning the Rolling Stones, I’ve been thinking about what I consider to be “parent” music, and not just Rolling Stones, Beatles, Elton John and whatever light folk or quirky side-thing (country, Saturday Night Fever soundtrack) parents just sort of quietly enjoy. I’m talking about absolutely, universally lame adult music that attaches plastic explosives to the bridges across the generation gap. I gotta ask, which is the most notorious “lame” band?

ZZ_Top_LiveDream Band: Songwriters, Round 1

Underappreciated in the public eye, over appreciated at the Grammy Awards (which themselves are underappreciated in the public eye, because they’re worthless) – yes, songwriters truly have it all. They actually don’t, I just figured I’d conclude my introduction to legendary writers with a coldly cliched line. Which actually makes it brilliant, I’m pretty sure. Go vote.