Bassam is a graduate of the Higher Institute for Dramatic Arts in Damascus. He has been living in exile in Berlin since 2013, having escaped the war in his homeland. He presents a programme on Radio Souriali, an internet radio station created by young Syrians. He also collaborates on a website called Qisetna: Talking Syria, which encourages Syrians to tell their tales. The website features stories of ordinary life in Syria as well as what those in the diaspora miss most about their country. It also has harrowing tales of migration.
Syria has an ancient tradition of storytelling. No one knows exactly when it began but historical research suggests it goes back many centuries. Traditional storytellers or hakawati would often tell ‘Seya Sha’bieh’ or popular long stories. These relate the adventures of knights and heroes such as Antara ben Shaddad, Al Sa’alik, Ta’abat Sharran and Orwabin Al Ward. Bassam says storytelling was “an attempt to document the history of a diverse region,” by talking about the family trees of various clans and tribes, their relations to one another as well as their movements and migrations. Before the advent of the written word, the history of the region was transmitted orally via Jaheli (pre-Islamic) poetry.