Artists overview

Refugees for Refugees

A journey along the former Silk Road

Refugees for Refugees brings together renowned musicians from Syria, Tibet, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Belgium who are united by their desire to weave links between their music.  The group has developed an original repertoire at the crossroads between their different traditions.

Following two years of collaboration, their second album writes a new chapter in the Refugees for Refugees story.  It represents reconstruction, the fresh energy needed to map out a new trajectory after being uprooted.  Breaking down musical barriers, the group offers a rich menu of sounds, from lively Afghan popular songs to the refinement of the classical tradition from Aleppo and Baghdad, through the pure power of nomadic Tibetan chants, the weightless sounds of the Pakistani sarod, the subtleties of the Turkish oud and oriental percussion.

After the ’Amerli’ CD-release in may 2016, 10 of the musicians that took part at the recordings created a band. Under the artistic direction of Tristan Driessens, these virtuoso performers created a common repertoire that reveals the talents and cultural treasures that have become virtually invisible in Belgium and builds bridges between the musicians and the different traditions they represent, in order to produce perfomances that are rich, innovative and a mark of diversity and cultural exchange.

These are experienced musicians who have been trained at some of the most prestigious music academies in the Middle East (Damascus, Baghdad, Aleppo) and who have passed through a string of musical centres dotted along the former Silk road. In the past, they have enjoyed a rich career, international fame, and a variety of projects. But now, they have been forced to flee the disastrous situation in their home countries, uprooting themselves and abandoning their contacts, taking only their musical talents and instruments with them. These talents form the basis of the project. Together, we aim to develop a path that helps them to find their place and reconstruct their lives in Belgium.


Asad Qizilbash (sarod) (Pakistan-BE)
Aren Dolma (voice) (Tibet-BE)
Fakher Madallal (voice, percussion) (Syria-BE)
Kelsang Hula (dramyen, voice) (Tibet-BE)
Mohammad Aman Yusufi (dambura, voice) (Afghanistan-BE)
Simon Leleux (percussion) (BE)
Souhad Najem (qanun) (Iraq-BE)
Tammam Al Ramadan (ney) (Syria-BE)
Tareq Alsayed Yahya (ud) (Syria-BE)
Tristan Driessens (ud, artistic director) (BE)





  • The Band

Asad Qizilbash (sarod, Pakistan) became quickly a violin and guitar master, but after having seen a performance of master Amjad Ali Khan, he decided to focus on the sarod, a nineteen strings instrument. Asad became this instrument’s only representative in Pakistan and enjoyed international recognition, giving concerts around the world (he played for Nelson Mandela and G. W. Bush). Asad had to leave his country because he had founded a musical school, which did not please to the religious extremists in the area.

Aman Yusufi (dambura and voice, Afghanistan) was born in Bamyan in 1959. He began the dambura in the traditional milieu and quickly builds a strong reputation. On a friend’s request, he wrote a song about a lady he loved. Unfortunately, she was married to an ex-soldier, who heard the song and decided to kill Aman, who had to fly away from his country.

Dolma Renqingi (voice, Tibet) was born in the Tibetan mountains, in the region of Amdo. That’s where she started learning to sing when she still was a child. She built an impressive musical career until her departure to India and her final arrival in Belgium. Still very active in the community, Dolma practices her voice with the dramyen lute player Kelsang Hula, who grew up in the same region than her.

Kelsang Hula (voice and dramyen, Tibet) was born in 1977 in Tibet (Amdo), where he started his self-taught learning with a mandolin he had at home. He also sings, dances and composes. He ran away from Tibet with his instrument and arrived in Dharamsala where the Dalaï-Lama told him to enter the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts. He then integrated the group Akhopema.

Tamman Ramadan (ney) and Tareq al Sayed (ud) met at the Aleppo Conservatory and started playing together at that time. Bad life conditions in Syria forced them to migrate to Europe where they still play on impressive stages, even though they’re separated from the rest of their band.

Fakher Madallal (voice, Syria) grew up in Aleppo, where his father was a renowned singer. He now follows his steps, thanks to his powerful and accurate voice that he accompanies with percussions.

Souhad Najem is one of those who truly master the qanûn. A former student of the Music Institute in Baghdad, who subsequently taught in Iraq and Tunisia, he is the author of a volume of compositions that is reputed as a classic for teaching the qanûn.

Tristan Driessens (ud, Belgium) get a Master in Turkish ud at Luca School of Arts (Lemmens, Belgium). He traveled many times to Istanbul during three years in order to follow the teaching of Necati Celik. In 2011, he founded the Lamekân Ensemble.

Simon Leleux (percussion, Belgium) is specialized in Middle Eastern percussions. He started playing music with what has remained his favorite instrument: the darbuka. Trained with grat masters and former student at Codarts in Rotterdam, Simon had the privilege to share the stage with musical celebrities and extremely varied projects, ranging from oriental music with Ghalia Benali to baroque music with Les Menus Plaisirs du Roy, not to forget Berber songs with Khalid Izri, ottoman music with Lâmekân Ensemble, music from the Balkans with Tcha Limberger, Nedyalko Nedyalkov, world music with Emre Gultekin/Vardan Hovanissian, Auster Loo, ….

More musicians from the album Amerli

Ali Shaker Hassan (qanûn, Iraq) started musical studies in Iraq. He moved to Cairo with his familyin 2004, where he graduates in music in 2010. In Belgium, he plays with percussionist Feras Hassan in the Forad Duo and Wassel ensemble.

Hussein Rassim (ud, Iraq) spent five years at the Baghdad Conservatory studying lute. He founded the group Solo Baghdad. He left his country and his ud during summer 2015, and ended up in Belgium. There, he integrates in the musical networks in order to start a new musical career.

Bassel Abu Fakher (cello, Syria), from Damascus, first began with classical music before starting his own musical projects. Besides playing cello, he composes and arranges music reflecting the difficulty of living and leaving a conflictual land.

Majid Zare (tabla, Afghanistan) was born in the north of Iran. At a young age he became addicted to the rhythms of the tabla, though his strict religious environment disapproved it. The prohibition to marry his Iranian girlfriend forced them to leave the country. Today they live in a reception center in Sint-Niklaas. He had the chance to meet Aman Yusufi, who was looking for somebody to accompany him on tabla.

Basel Khalil (guitar, Syria) studied at the Damascus Conservatory. Then he lived 6 years in Russia where he continued his musical training. He spent most of his life teaching classical guitar and flamenco in Syria. Having become a street musician in Turkey, he arrived in Belgium in September 2015, and he hopes to receive a residence permit to be able to teach his passion.

Norbu Tsering (voice, dramyen, flute, erhu, Tibet) was born in Nepal, where his parents ran away from the Chinese oppression. He learned traditional instruments at the Tibetan school, but it’s his mother who passed him on her passion for flute. After having received an invitation to give conferences in Europe, Norbu stayed here and performs in the Tibetan community. He’s accompanied by Norbu Pam (guitar, Tibet).

Khaled al Hafez who forms together with Tammam Ramadan and Tareq al Sayed the band Wajd.

Shalan Alhamwy (violin, Syria) was born in Homs where he grew up with his instrument. He integrated many orchestras in Syria. He then developed a career as soloist, composer and arranger, still in oriental classical music that he loves.

WOXX Magazine (LU)
Willi Klopottek

“This is not only a showcase project in political and social terms, but also offers exquisite musical enjoyment.”

Brussels Express (BE)
Mauricio Ruiz

Refugees for Refugees: Music as a gift to society

Amaury Michaux

“Above all, we focus on our music, instead of our past”

De Standaard (BE)

 “With a refined instrumentation of strings, reeds and percussion, and the voices of Aren Dolma and Fakhr Madallal, the ten-member ensemble expresses sorrow and hope, folklore and art, contemporary reflection (‘After the dust’) and nostalgic memory.”

De Subjectivisten (NL)
Jan Willem Broek

“In a beautiful way they weave elements from different cultures together into one universal work full of surprisingly fitting and above all beautiful combinations….A majestic world album!”

Tropicalidade (BE)
Tim Ianna

“With this second album, the ensemble, which has been slimmed down from twenty to ten musicians,
wants to focus mainly on reconstruction and find a new perspective after being uprooted,
and the songs on Amina sound a lot more cheerful than the often melancholic and nostalgic tracks on Amerli.”

5planètes - Des mondes de musiques (BE)
Etienne Bours

Réfugiés? Refusés?

Le Vif Weekend (BE)
Mathieu Nguyen

“Chanter pour ceux”

En Marche (BE)
Estelle Toscanucci

Refugees for refugees: nouveau souffle, nouveau son


An album of the years and one which people will treat as a benchmark in years to come

BBC MUSIC magazine (UK)

***** – It’s gratifying how much chemistry the (…) artists from very different cultures find, and the standard of performance is high.

Libération (FR)
Charline Lecarpentier

«Quand on est sur scène, je ne sens pas que nous sommes réfugiés»

Le Monde (FR)
Patrick Labesse

Des réfugiés jouent pour les réfugiés, au gré des marées”

TV5 Monde (BE)
Paul Germain

« Le Bar de l’Europe. Tammam Ramadan »

radio Classic 21 (BE)
Pierre Paulus

“L’ensemble est d’une troublante cohérence. D’une formidable union. Dans laquelle les nuances culturelles cohabitent avec harmonie et douceur. Chacun puisant en l’Autre ce qu’il a de meilleur. Loin, très loin, des discours absurdes fondés sur la peur.” 

La Libre Belgique (BE)
Louise Vanderkelen

« Des Réfugiés unis par la musique. »

RTL-info/ Bel RTL (BE)

« Un CD réalisé par des Réfugiés »

7sur7 (BE)
Sébastien Cools

« Un album enregistré avec des musiciens réfugiés »

Télé Bruxelles (BE)

« Muziekpublique lance un projet de Crowdfunding pour enregistrer un album avec des réfugiés musiciens »

Arte / La Trois (BE)
Hadja Lahbib

« Tout le Baza’Art »

Le Soir (BE)
Flavier Gauthier

« De la musique en mémoire d’Alep » 

La Première RTBF (BE)
Didier Mélon

« Première esquisse. Dolma Renqingi & Kelsang Hula »

Larsen (BE)
Benjamin Tollet

« La Musique, valeur refuge ! »

Mic Mag (BE)
Stéphanie Triest

“Refugees for refugees, un carrefour musical, atypique, à la croisée des routes de l’exil.”

–  « Refugees for Refugees, la musique de l’exil » 

La Première RTBF (BE)
Didier Mélon

« Le Monde est un village. Refugees for Refugees » 

La Première RTBF (BE)
Miguel Allo

« Transversales. Reportage Refugees for Refugees »

La Trois (BE)

« L’Invitation »

Brussels Nieuws (BE)

« Gevluchte muzikanten opnemen CD » 

De Standaard (BE)

« Virtuoze vluchtelingen »

Bruzz (BE)
Benjamin Tollet

« Enfant terrible : Hussain Rassim »

Klara (BE)

« Late Night World » 

De Standaard (BE)
par Peter Vantyghem

« Oude nieuwe stemmen **** » 

De Standaard (BE)

« De 5 beste cd’s van de week »

TRAD’ Magazine (FR)
Etienne Bours

Chaque pièce est un voyage en soi mais passer de l’une à l’autre montre une unité évidente, une communauté musicale faite d’éléments différents et de cette finesse orientale à nulle autre pareille.

Télérama (FR)
Eric Delhaye

« Des festivals de musique ouvrent leurs scènes aux artistes réfugiés »

Radiopopulare.it (IT)
Marcello Lorrai

L’iniziativa in Belgio : Un cd di musicisti-rifugiati : “La musica è molto toccante, come lo sono i contenuti dei brani interpretati, alcuni tradizional e altri originali” 

Al Jazeera (UK)
Brian Ging

« The Musician from Diyala »


***** Refugees for Refugees is what it says : the musicians who play on it are all refugees who have made new lives in Belgium. Simply and beautifully, they play together. The instrumentation, languages and style across the 14 tracks are hugely varied, and that’s part of the immense charm of this enterprise.

Reuters (International)

Refugee orchestra blends musical notes from Syria to Tibet

Times of India (India)
Daily Mail (UK)
The Peninsula (Qatar)
The express tribune (Pakistan)
Roznama urdu (Pakistan)
DNA (India)
UOL (Brazil)
Europa press (Spain)
DCI Mais (Brazil)
Channel NewsAsia (Asia)
Sinchew (China)
Utilma Hora (International)
Panorama (Venezuela)

Past concerts

16/08/20 Folkfestival Ham (Ham, BE)
07/05/20 Espace du bocage (La Haye-Pesnel, FR)
06/05/20 Le Rafiot (Flamanville, FR)
03/04/20 De Foyer (Brussels, BE)
08/02/20 Quintet - CC Braine-l’Alleud ( BE)
17/01/20 cc De Brouckere (Torhout, BE)
09/11/19 Sextet - Centre culturel de Verviers ( BE)
10/10/19 CC De Factorij (Zaventem , BE)
09/10/19 De Spil (Roeselare, BE)
28/07/19 Musicastrada Festival (Pontedera, IT)
27/07/19 Glatt & Verkehrt Festival (Krems, AT)
25/07/19 Cyprus Rialto World Music Festival (Limassol, CY)
13/07/19 Brosella Folk & Jazz (Brussels, BE)
03/07/19 Festival des Hauts de Garonne (Floirac, FR)
20/06/19 World Refugee Day - Flagey (Brussel, BE)
29/05/19 Teatro Garcia de Resende (Évora, PT)
28/05/19 Teatro da Trindade (Lisbon, PT)
23/05/19 Hagyományok Háza (Budapest, HU)
17/05/19 Quintet - Archipel 19 (Brussels, BE)
16/05/19 Ter Vesten (Beveren, BE)
10/05/19 Ferme du Biéreau (LLN, BE)
06/04/19 Centre culturel régional Action Sud (Nismes/Viroinval, BE)
03/04/19 CC de Comines-Warneton (Comines, BE)
29/03/19 Espace Ronny Coutteure (Grenay, FR)
28/03/19 cc Brugge (Brugge, BE)
13/03/19 C-Mine (Genk, BE)
09/03/19 Handelsbeurs (Gent, BE)
02/03/19 Maison Culturelle d'Ath (Ath, BE)
01/03/19 Salle Philharmonique de Liège (Liège, BE)
24/02/19 De Zevende Dag - VRT (Brussel , BE)
23/02/19 Sextet - Festival Paroles d'Hommes (Soumagne, BE)
17/02/19 De Roma (Antwerpen, BE)
16/02/19 CD-RELEASE Ancienne Belgique (Brussels, BE)
03/11/18 Wakker voor Vrede (Langemark, BE)
02/11/18 Start November Wereldmaand (Halle, BE)
23/09/18 Eupen Matinee concert (Eupen, BE)
15/09/18 OdeGand (Gent, BE)
13/09/18 Tempocolor : Duo Tammam & Tarek (Liège, BE)
14/08/18 Festival Les Traversées Tatihou (Normandie, FR)
30/06/18 Bonds of Culture (Szczecin, PL)
24/06/18 Fête de la Musique (Geneva, CH)
20/06/18 Jour­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­née Mondiale des Réfu­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­giés (Malmedy, BE)
09/06/18 Institut des Cultures d'Islam (Paris , FR )
12/05/18 Festival im Vogelviertel (Bielefeld, DE)
06/05/18 Quintet - Opéra de Lille (Lille, FR)
21/04/18 Cultuurcentrum Het Perron (Ieper, BE)
07/04/18 15 years Muziekpublique (Bruxelles , BE )
17/03/18 De Warande (Turnhout, , BE)
04/03/18 Centre Culturel Régional du Centre (La Louvière, BE)
02/02/18 W:hall (Bruxelles, Belgique)
01/02/18 - 150315 Festival Propulse - Botanique (Brussels, BE)
20/12/17 Opéra de Lille (Lille, France)
20/12/17 Opéra de Lille (Lille, FR)
16/12/17 30CC (Leuven, BE)
08/12/17 Africolor Festival (Bobigny, FR )
26/11/17 Wiesbaden ( DE )
10/11/17 CC Dison (Dison, BE )
19/10/17 CC Zwaneberg (Heist-op-den-Berg, BE )
12/10/17 Arenberg Schouwburg (Antwerpen, BE )
11/10/17 CC Bolwerk (Vilvoorde, BE )
09/09/17 Sint-Baafsabdij (Gent, BE )
08/09/17 PAS, Univeristeit van Maastricht (Maastricht, NL )
06/09/17 Festival Musicale del Mediterraneo (Gènes, IT )
23/08/17 - 001200 Hide&Seek Festival (Bruxelles , BE )
18/08/17 festival HAASte Töne ?! (Eupen , BE)
27/07/17 Sfinks Festival (Boechou, BE)
23/07/17 Musiques d’ailleurs, Chateau de Montaigle (Montaigle, BE )
23/07/17 Autres Rivages - Festival nomade des Musiques du Monde en Pays d’Uzès (Uzes, BE)
22/07/17 Globaltica Festival (Gdynia, BE )
16/07/17 Gentse Feesten (Gend , BE )
24/06/17 Festival des 5 Continents (Martigny , CH )
16/06/17 Kunst op de Vlucht, Bourla (Antwerpen, BE )
13/06/17 Ultima Awards, Vooruit (Gent, BE )
04/05/17 Festival van Vlaanderen (Courtrai, BE )
27/03/17 Gastvrije Gemeente, Vlaams Parlement (Bruxelles , BE )
03/03/17 B-Major ! Festival - Stadsschouwburg Brugge (Bruges, BE )
11/02/17 Le Petit Théâtre de la Grande Vie (Forzée , BE )
15/12/16 40 ans de CPAS au Square : Tammam, Fakher & Tareq (Bruxelles , BE )
03/12/16 Festival du Cinéma Mediterranéen : Tammam, Fakher & Tareq (Botanique-Bruxelles )
25/11/16 Médiathèque Le Phare (Uccle , BE )
19/11/16 Ouverture de l’année juridique au barreau de Bruxelles, Bourse (Bruxelles, BE )
20/10/16 Médiathèque Le Phare : Dolma & Kelsang, Ali Shaker Hassan al-Bayati (Uccle , BE )
09/09/16 Festival de Wallonie (Abbaye de Villers-la-Ville, BE )
03/09/16 Festival Rencontres Inattendues (Tournai, BE )
21/08/16 Festival d’Art de Huy (Huy , BE )
06/08/16 Festival Espéranzah ! (Floreffe, BE )
11/07/16 Festival Les Suds : Dolma & Kelsang (Arles, FR )
19/06/16 Jardins Botaniques de Liège : Dolma & Kelsang (Liège, BE )
08/06/16 Espéranzah ! au-delà des murs (Namur , BE )
16/05/16 Music Meeting (Nijmegen, NL )
13/05/16 Muziekpublique (Bruxelles , BE )


Booking Belgium & international

Lynn Dewitte – lynn@muziekpublique.be

Louise Janssens – louise@muziekpublique.be

General contact: label@muziekpublique.be

+32 2 217 26 00

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