Khebez Dawle: The Road From Damascus

BBC World Service

27-year- old Anas Maghrebi is the lead singer of Syrian indie band Khebez
Dawle. With his band mates he fled Damascus for Beirut after the Arab Spring.
As the war intensified, in August 2015 they sold their instruments to pay smugglers
and set out in a dinghy across the Mediterranean. When they landed on the Greek
island of Lesbos they handed out copies of their debut album to tourists on the beach
and quickly attracted the attention of the global media.

The band now resides in Berlin, having been granted asylum. Since their arrival in
Germany, Khebez Dawle have toured the country and received hundreds of
thousands of plays online. But as its members adapt to a new life in Europe, coming
to terms with what they have left behind is hard. Often billed as “refugee rockers,”
Anas worries that the band’s dramatic story could eclipse their music and speaks
about his struggles in accepting their rapid success.

Anas recounts Damascus’s once vibrant music scene, before it became the war-torn
Syria he describes as a “dead end” for musicians. The drummer of his former band,
Rabia al-Ghazzi, an activist, was found dead in a car with a bullet in his neck in
2012. Soon afterwards Anas uploaded songs online that were critical of President
Bashar al-Assad’s regime under the pseudonym of Khebez Dawle.

In 2013 in Lebanon, having recruited his friends from Damascus as members,
Khebez Dawle began playing live. Inspired by Radiohead and Pink Floyd, through
his Arabic lyrics, Anas tells stories of migrants seeking refuge through their music.
In an emotional and revealing portrait recorded over a year, we join Khebez Dawle
on their last show in Hanover, at work in their home studio and at the opening of a
new performance space for Syrian art in Berlin. Will they make it from international
news curiosities into an ambitious band existing on their own terms?

Produced by Paul Smith

Broadcast: 30th September 2017