Love on 139th Street in D
Citation: “Kinan Azmeh: Love on 139th street in D,” YouTube Video, 11:58, “Morgenland Festival Osnabrueck,” December 16, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6M4_ZqME-7o.
“Home is where the heart is,” is a problematic phrase. It is meant to show that what you consider home can change depending on who lives there. You are able to change your home by changing where your heart belongs. However, for me, I have trouble when my heart is stuck in a place I will never return too.
When Dr. Kinan Azmeh, a left-handed clarinetist from Damascus, Syria, visited my Sociology 305 class to play the clarinet for us and answer questions, I honestly did not know what to expect. I am not musically adept nor do I know anything about the Syrian conflict. Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the real reason he decided to come to our class. He started the class by playing a song he wrote, “Love on 139th Street in D.” The song was inspired by a neighbor he had in New York who he never met but would always be blasting Hispanic music. Dr. Azmeh told us he loves to open with this song because at first, he was trying to write a song and block out his neighbor’s music. But this song came from when he decided to open up and truly hear his neighbor.
The conversation then morphed into one of “home” and how we define it. He discussed that at first when he felt at home in New York instead of in Damascus, a part of him wondered if it is a good thing. He started to resent it and think that in some way it is betraying. But the more he spent in New York, the more he realized that the more variety of where you feel at home, the healthier you are as a human. Dr. Azmeh believes that home was more than just where the heart is. It is where you want to learn from but also contribute the most to without justification. And if you are able to give that contribution to many different places, soon you could wish well for the whole world. And this can morph into wishing well for all of humanity, every being and beyond.
Dr. Azmeh believes this is how you can avoid assimilating to one culture and forgetting the one you came from. Once you have acquired the ability to claim everything as home, culture is not what to choose from but what to embrace. The way of thinking Dr. Azmeh introduced me to through his talk and music allowed me to see that we can’t stay on the fences of our individual homes. Dr. Azmeh says that one way to make people jump off of these said fences is through music. He believes that music allows the artist to express emotions that you don’t have the privilege to feel in real life. Instead of the artists only reflecting on the world around them, they recreate the world in the most ideal way. This can offer keys for the culture they come from. For Dr. Azmeh, he hopes his music will trigger curiosity to dig more vertically into what Syria is the way it is.
All in all, having Dr. Kinan Azmeh in class that day is an experience that has aided in how I view home.