Culture Under Attack was a season of three free exhibitions, live music, performances and talks at IWM London that explored how war threatens not just people’s lives, but also the things that help define us.

'I am a destroyed person after the war'


Aeham Ahmad: “I began in the music school when I am five years old my father tell me to play piano. This was not my idea to play piano, and he take me from place to place and he try every time to advise me to play piano, to be international with a classic piano but this was not my idea until 15. I began search about music and I understand piano is not only classic as mean jazz and mean mixed with traditional music with jazz, with classic with oriental jazz.”


“Music it's every day, I was playing five hour every day, playing from five, five years when I play [Music] and I don't live without the music. And when I sit in the other piano you tell me play or you don't tell me play but I need it. It’s my friend and I know it’s whole life it was around the music.”


“It was horrible, horrible time because we are thirsty and hunger and 100 people dying from hunger because Yarmouk was under siege and the war has already destroyed 50% from Yarmouk. But we enjoyed the time to be community, to sing to against the war with the music at least.”


“Every time I lose myself. You can see me I touch the piano and suddenly I close my eyes and I back home directly, and this is really drive me crazy. Piano it’s for me, take me to horrible places and I see a lot of a crazy photo every time I play piano, it's painful because I don't, can't take all my memory before and clean it, it’s not easy. I don't need to say we are I need to tell you I am destroyed person after the war and I lose a lot of power and a lot of people. It's mean for me a lot, whenever I play piano, I remember him, I remember all my friend in the present, I remember my brother, I remember my uncle, my family it's mean too much things in, in Syria.”


Aeham Ahmad is a Syrian concert pianist who uses music to deal with the reality and memory of war. 

When the conflict in Syria started, Aeham was forced to give up the piano and find other work to feed his family but as jobs became scarce, he went back to his music.

Despite the risks, Aeham wheeled his piano out into the street and started to play, for both himself and those around him. Gaining worldwide recognition on social media, Aeham earned himself the name,'The Pianist of Yarmouk.'

After escaping the war, Aeham now lives in Germany but still relives the memories of war every time he plays

In a rare UK appearance, Aeham Ahmad performed at IWM and shared his experiences alongside fellow Syrian performer, Jake Shuker.

Watch the highlights of the event here

Rebel Sounds Live was part of IWM's Culture Under Attack season. 

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Rebel Sounds Live

A free series of live interventions and discussions with musicians and activists who have risked their lives for culture in times of war, exile and censorship.