The sound of Selah playing saz in the musical instrument shop in Erbil where he works lures visitors day and night—miniature, impromptu concerts with standing room only.

Back in Syria, he lived above his professional recording studio. It took up two storefronts in Aleppo’s vibrant neighborhood Ashrafiya. The small control room had expensive equipment and the recording room had walls overlaid in wood and moquette to dampen sound. A family of saz instruments hung from one wall.

His band practiced regularly but never publicly performed Kurdish music which was prohibited. “It is a harsh feeling and very difficult to live on the ground of your ancestors and not be able to play their music,” he says. One of the best parts about being in Erbil, in a shop owned by an Iraqi Kurd—he can play Kurdish music freely.

By the time Selah left Aleppo, streets once thronged with people had gone silent. He says he could see militant factions fighting through his window. When he finally lost faith and left Aleppo, “it was like when your soul leaves your body.”

Today his recording studio sits empty, stripped bare by looters. Even the wood was taken. “It’s just the walls.”