Editor’s Note: This concert was canceled on Tuesday, March 3.
Bassel Almadani grew up in the college town of Kent, Ohio, but now finds himself on an international stage. His project, Bassel and the Supernaturals has performed all over the world, promoting awareness of the Syrian refugee crisis. On March 5, the soulful musical outfit will grace the Toledo Museum of Art’s Peristyle stage.
For Almadani, the rise to fame and media praise was never the point. As a first-generation Syrian, Bassel and his group work tirelessly to promote awareness of Syrian refugees and their plight following the aftermath of the 2011 Syrian Civil War. With a tagline of “Syrian Heart, Chicago Soul,” the band has partnered with nonprofits including The Karam Foundation, working with Syrian refugees to teach professional development skills.
Voice for the voiceless
The multi-instrumentalist Almadani moved from Kent to Chicago roughly ten years ago and connected with a group of musicians who share both his ear and his passions. Bassel and the Supernaturals is a project borne of love and hope. Though Almadani was born and raised in the U.S., much of his family, including his parents, are from Aleppo, Syria. “I was afforded the privilege to be [in the U.S.], and not have to experience the things [my parents] experienced,” he said. “I didn’t do anything to earn it or deserve it, and I’m unbelievably grateful. Songwriting has been a way for me to lift up [my family’s] voice and to help me stay connected with my cultural DNA, at a time when I feel it’s threatened.”
Focusing attention on Syrian refugees
Syrian refugees who were forced to flee from their homes at the onset of the Syrian Civil War in 2011 constitute an enormous population (a 2016 census quoted the number at 13.2 million people). A majority of refugees live in poverty and struggle to secure housing and medical care. The band’s goal is to help bring attention to those in need, using the medium they know best. Their music promotes both the dark realities of the crisis in Syria and the light of hope with a high-powered blend of funk and soul, infused with Motown influences.
But above all, the band’s goal is to elevate the voices of the voiceless.
“We have been working on changing our music into light that we can shine back through the darkness,” he said of the group’s work. “What I want people to take away is a different narrative— not just leaning on what they see on TV, but to be somebody who can open up the lens a little bit, to share this other narrative that helps to challenge their understanding, help them to think a little more critically about all of it.”
Their newest album, Smoke and Mirrors, is set for release later this year.
$15, general | $25, VIP
7pm | Thursday, March 5
Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle, 2445 Monroe St.
419-255-8000 | toledomuseum.org