The time could not be more perfect. Following the New Year’s Eve events, and their repercussions on Germany’s view of it’s rising refugee population, the appearance of Aeham Ahmad in Bonn’s Münsterplatz today was a reminder that the majority of these refugees are decent people forced to risk death in search of not just a new life – but a life at all.
Syrian born Aeham is this year’s winner of the Beethoven Prize and had a smile warm enough to keep everyone ringed around him in the freezing Winter air content even before he began playing and singing his native songs and melodies (and also a little Beethoven).
Although born in Syria Aeham Ahmad became a symbol of musical defiance playing piano daily amid the ruins of the destroyed Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus.
He also became a symbol of the power of the Internet as videos of him playing amongst the ruins surrounded by children and local residents became a hit on YouTube and a symbol of resistance. They also led to his piano being burned by the IS, at which point Ahmad was forced to flee, leaving behind his wife and children.
On his arrival via a rubber dinghy he became something of a celebrity and last October played before 3000 people at a Munich Peace Concert. In Bonn it was more like 30 people, but Aeham’s enthusiasm could not have been any greater had it been 30.000.