Joan, 13 years old, from Aleppo, Syria

When you’re 13 years old and confined to a tent in rural Greece, there aren’t many ways to occupy your time. Joan decided to learn how to play the tanbour, a stringed instrument invented by the Kurdish people.

“I want to be good—very good,” he says.

Luckily, he’s a natural. Though he had never picked up an instrument before his family fled Aleppo, he has learned to read music with the help of an Iraqi musician living in a neighboring tent. Joan practices for several hours a day, the melodies of songs like “Kine em?” (Who Are We?), an anthem to the Kurdish identity, emanating from the tent that he shares with his mother and two brothers.

His mom looks at him proudly. “Now we have music here every night,” she says. 

Photo & Story: Allison Voigts

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