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The Mozart of Aden, a story of resilience through music

Ahmed playing violin at Aden Musical institute. ©UNICEF Yemen/2019/Ansar Rasheed

By Ansar Rasheed, Communication for Development Officer, UNICEF Aden Field Office

Aden, Yemen, 30 May 2019 – “At school, my teachers call me Mozart and my classmates keep asking me to play songs. When I touch my violin, I feel like I am talking with a good friend and it makes me happy, maybe you should do the same?”

When you see him sitting in front of the microphone full of confidence, it is hard to believe that Ahmed Tariq Abdullah Saleh went through traumatic experiences and that he fought hard to follow his dream of music. Today, not only does the 12-year-old boy from Aden play violin and piano as well as perform in concerts but he is also a guest of Lana, a community radio which runs a regular programme called “Talented children Live” where children can interact and speak about their daily lives and fears in the conflict-torn country of Yemen.

Last year, Ahmed was a completely a different boy. As a fifth-grade student at the Comprehensive International School of Aden, he wasn’t interacting with the other students, mostly spending his time sitting alone in the yard with sadness in his eyes.

During the radio programme “Talented children live”, Ahmed is interacting with other children of Aden and talking about his passion for music. ©UNICEF Yemen/2019/Ansar Rasheed

Ahmed lives with his mother, who is unemployed. His aunt lives also with them and supports them both thanks to her teacher’ salary. His father left when he was still very young and never came back. Ahmed remembers when the war started in Aden. “I remember the sounds of shelling, the explosions and the people running in the streets.” He was so severely traumatized that he stopped talking for many months.

That’s mostly thanks to music that Ahmed came back to life. “I still have bad dreams. But when I wake up, I jump on my violin and play to forget these dreams and go to a different world, where there is no war,” Ahmed says, holding his violin close to his heart.

Assrar, his aunt, supports him unconditionally. “I always believed in Ahmed. Despite of all what he went through, I see passion and determination in his eyes when he is playing music. I will never give up on him and I will keep encouraging him to achieve his dreams,” Assrar says.

That’s why, together with Ahmed’s teachers, she approached UNICEF, so he could join the UNICEF-supported Artist Forum, which is a platform for young musicians and artists who take part in behavior change activities and educate their communities about cholera, vaccination, handwashing and other lifesaving health and hygiene practices, through music and arts.

“We are so proud of Ahmed. He is an excellent student and he had the courage to overcome all the traumatic events he faced. He never surrendered and found in music the way out,” praises Ahlam, one of Ahmed’s teachers.

Ahmed with his classmates during their graduation. Ahmed was ranked first of his class at the last school’s exams. ©UNICEF Yemen/2019/Ansar Rasheed

“I want all the children to find someone to talk to about their fears and to focus on something they love to do, and they will be all right,” Ahmed says on Lana radio, to conclude today’s programme, with his inspiring story of hope and resilience, despite living in one of the worst places on earth to be a child.

UNICEF Artist Forum was set up in 2018 as a platform to promote positive key behavioral practices during concerts, artistic performances and other community-based events. There are currently 10 young musicians, 11 child actors and 10 painters who constitute the forum. All of them are now rehearsing for their next public performance, which will take place in Aden this summer.

In Aden, UNICEF Communication for Development interventions are being implemented thanks to the contributions of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, and Qatar Fund for Development.



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