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10/22/20- Refugee Stories and Culture through Music

This week, I want to share an article about Johns Hopkins alum Sasha Ingber who founded Music in Exile, a non-profit organization dedicated to recording and sharing the music of refugees who were forced to flee their homes.

This article features the story of Barakat, a Yazidi IDP (internally displaced person) who fled his region of Iraq when his family was at risk of being murdered by ISIS. Two years after his family initially left, they were visited by Ingber in Mosul, Iraq, and she recorded his performance dedicated to the Yazidi children who were massacred by ISIS in 2014. A talented musician, Barakat believes that music is not only the best way to spread a message of peace and hope, but essential in maintaining his culture in the face of cultural genocide. Ingber recalls him saying, "Nobody can steal this [song] from me."

Ingber was inspired by her grandfather to found Music in Exile. He was an aspiring opera singer who sang to bring comfort to those around him while imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps during WWII. Because of this, Ingber recognizes the power music has to foster hope and spread joy during the darkest of times, and she is committed to spotlighting refugees today who do the same. Ingber hopes that Music in Exile will be able to "preserve the cultural heritage of communities irreparably damaged by war, sectarian violence, regional instability... [and to] humanize refugees such as Barakat."

For me, it is incredible to see that there are so many examples of people across the world working to share the music of refugees in such diverse ways. Whether it is through outreach events, musical recordings, or benefit concerts, each organization has found a method of connecting through the universal language of music.

Currently, Ingber works as a breaking-news reporter for NPR and has had her work published in National Geographic, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic. You can listen to the performances of the refugees they have visited on Music in Exile's soundcloud, which can be found on their website:

The original article can be found at

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"Music is the universal language of mankind."

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow