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Syrian musicians carve out small space in Istanbul’s live music scene 

Istanbul’s Syrian-run small art spaces have become a conduit of connection between locals and the refugee population through music amid high running anti-refugee sentiment across the country.
In the Studio Project’s live performance in Istanbul on June 30.

The sharp strings of Goksel Baktagir’s qanun hit first. Then enter the dissonant sounds of gourds, djembes, a drum machine and a keyboard. The smoky voice of the youngest of the three Hakki brothers begins to undulate across the room, building space for a syncopated dance track to follow.

In Istanbul, where estimates of up to 25 million people live, some 25 people comprised mainly of Syrians and Turkish musicians, the audience and a camera crew squeezed into a small basement studio where deep blue lights reflected off ivory keys and matte black headphones. The gig on June 30 was the first live performance of In the Studio Project — an initiative led by Serkan Hakki, a young clarinet player originally from Aleppo — since the start of the pandemic. He is on a mission to use recording sessions to bond listeners with studio musicians.

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