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27/12/2017 - 07:00hs

Palestinian refugee plays in São Paulo orchestra

Yousef Saif moved into Brazil in April. The 23-year-old musician plays the bouzouki, an instrument in the lute family.

Daniel Kersys

Saif performing with the orchestra

São Paulo – Palestinian refugee Yousef Mozahem Yousef Saif arrived in Brazil last April. A 23-year-old musician, he plays the bouzouki, an instrument in the lute family. Since last May he’s been in the lineup of Orquestra Mundana Refugi, an orchestra of refugee players which champions their cause and approaches music as a synthesis of inclusion and respect of diversity.

He was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where his father used to work up until Saif was three. After that they went back to the family’s homeland, and he was brought up in Tulkarm, Palestine. Saif left his country for Brazil by himself, seeking asylum from conflicts and political pressure.

His family and friends still live back in Palestine, and he misses them and longs to see them. He said he feels respected and welcome in São Paulo, and that Brazilians do not show prejudice towards him. “I don’t feel like a refugee here. I love this country. I found work to do and I’m going on with my life,” he said.

Daniel Kersys

Orchestra lineup features artists from 12 different countries

His Syrian friend Oula Al-Saghir, who’s a singer with the orchestra, called him up to sit in for a rehearsal last May, and he’s been with the orchestra ever since. Saif, who’s played in nine different groups, is very happy with the orchestra right now. “Every time we play together I learn something new. It’s a great experience.” His future plans include resuming his musical studies, going on playing and working on his art here in São Paulo.

The orchestra

The orchestra was created by musician Carlinhos Antunes and social worker Cléo Miranda with support from the Social Service of Commerce (SESC). A 20-strong ensemble, it features eight Brazilians and 12 refugees from several countries, including Syria, Palestine, Iran, Cuba, Congo and Haiti.

*Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum

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