Refugee Artists

Where Orient Meets Hip Hop

A screen print of a hip-hop record sleeve made by a Syrian musician Kaan Wafi, one of the many artistic and cultural refugees now changing the face of Berlin's art scene.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Berlin is a magnet for artists all over the world and, of late, Syrian artists from exile and their home land are coming here too.

  • Facts


    • 42,100 Syrians arrived in Berlin since the beginning of this year, 169 percent more than during this same period one year before.
    • Wafi Kaan’s project include 13 artists from other countries, including Germany, Palestine and Iran.
    • The EP and art booklet will be released on Tuesday in Berlin at an event called “Pieces from Exile.”
  • Audio


  • Pdf

Amid the chaos and confusion of Europe’s refugee crisis, perhaps the last thing many people expected to hear in Berlin was the sound of Syrian melodies being played on the piano.

A man who calls himself Kaan Wafi, a 27-year old refugee from Syria, came to Berlin two and a half years ago seeking asylum and safe harbor from the war.

His journey to the German capital still fresh in his mind, he imbued his feelings of displacement into his music, which he played in cultural centers and in camps for migrants.

He is one of a growing community of artists in Berlin from Syria, Palestine and Iran who meet regularly and find new ways to create music.

Like many, he is fearful of being identified by the Syrian government regime, which he said could take revenge against family members.

“The longer I lived in Germany, the more people I met from home. Eventually we formed a small expat community of artists here,” Kaan Wafi said. “I want to stay in touch with what’s going on in Syria. So I dedicate my music to those lost, abducted and displaced by the war.”

Syria’s artistic diaspora is changing the face of Berlin’s art scene.

“Many projects in Berlin deal with the situation of refugees, showing their solidarity with those involved,” said Antje Weitzel, an art curator in Berlin. “I think it’s important that the people involved, the refugees, are given the space to speak for themselves and that we do not speak about or for them.”

Want to keep reading?

Subscribe now or log in to read our coverage of Europe’s leading economy.