Alaa Arsheed is a talented Syrian musician who, after the war broke out in 2011, fled to Lebanon with the dream of playing in Europe. The Italian cultural organization Fabrica got to know his story through a tweet by Alessandro Gassmann, who had met him while he was filming a documentary about refugees in Lebanon and Syria on behalf of UNHCR. Thanks to that coincidence, Alaa was granted a music scholarship by Fabrica, which hosted him at its centre for a few months. In the meantime he holded regular jamming sessions over Skype with some of his family members, who are also musicians. During that period, an eight-track album titled Sham (Damascus in Aramaic), inspired by his personal story and musical journey, was produced due to a collaboration with the musician Isaac de Martin.
Playing the violin takes Arsheed back to his memories of his home city, Sweida, in southern Syria. In 2006, his father founded an art space and library called Alpha, where artworks were exhibited monthly and young musicians used to gather, listen and play music. During the uprisings that spread across the Arab world in 2011, Alpha was forcibly closed by police and Arsheed’s father was jailed for a month. At that point, Arsheed and his sisters realized that it was no longer safe for them to remain in Syria.
Arsheed left with his violin and a few belongings, and moved to Beirut to finish his studies in music. He also taught music in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, worked in television, radio and theatre, and had the chance to play violin for a performance of Majnoon Yehki alongside Lebanese playwright Ziad Rahbani in 2013. But only after he arrived in Italy was he finally able to produce his debut LP. Along with de Martin, Arsheed later founded the platform Alpha Art to pursue the construction of a new international art gallery based on the one founded by his family in Sweida.
During the recording sessions –July 2015– of the album Sham at Fabrica, in the Italian province of Treviso, Alaa Arsheed (violin) met with Isaac de Martin (guitar), musician and producer as well as founder and member of the Adovabadan Jazz Band. This is a well established band from Treviso that since 2005 spreads the hot jazz and swing in Italy and Europe, appearing in remarkable jazz festivals and clubs.
Adovabadan picked up the Sham’s repertoire sorting out unique atmospheres: purely acoustic, exciting and dreamy.
Michele Uliana (clarinet), Mauro Brunato (banjo), Nicola Barbon (doublebass) and Remo Straforini (drums) are the core of the band, and the featuring with the hip-hop songwriter and singer Endi on vocals enhances the show called Mani Forti –Strong Hands.
Jazz has been always a music that clashes different genres and culture. Mani Forti is a music journey among barriers, that encourage the dialogue between the musical background of Syria and Italy.