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Sharif King moves around his bedroom plugging wires into instruments and fiddling with the computer. The room doubles as a home studio and he’s setting it up for an impromptu performance.
The 21-year-old’s passion for music started when he fled his Damascus home in 2011 as a result of the Syrian conflict. He spent the next three years living as a refugee in Lebanon where he took up music.
“Life in Syria was very good [before the war],” he says. “[Life in Lebanon] was very hard because you can’t get a good job there. Sometimes you work and get no money for it but you can’t do anything about it.”
He started rapping because he wanted to convey his feelings about how the war had changed his life and country.
“After making a few songs I realised that people love what I’m doing so I started taking it seriously and started making new music every month.”
Sharif created his own YouTube channel, with some of the videos attracting more than 20,000 views. One of the most popular tracks is a song he also filmed a video clip for.
While showing off the video, his mother smiles broadly even as she shakes her head in mild disapproval at the parts that show Sharif lying in a hospital bed. Her pride, however, is evident as she watches it.
Sharif and his mother have been through a lot together and were overjoyed when they found out they’d been accepted for resettlement in New Zealand.
They touched down in Auckland in 2016 where they spent six weeks in the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre before arriving in Wellington, their new home.
It was during these six weeks that Sharif’s name was mentioned to Neil Finn in the lead-up to a benefit concert for Red Cross.
The musician’s interest was piqued and he visited Sharif in Mangere and asked him to perform with him at the gig.
“I didn’t have any idea who Neil Finn was but after [the concert] everyone was asking me about performing with him, which is really cool,” Sharif says.
After arriving in Wellington, Sharif was keen to continue his music so he borrowed some money from a friend, which he’s since paid back, in order to set-up his home studio.
It’s basic but does the trick. His microphone feeds into a computer so he can directly record the voice tracks; he uses audio editing to remix songs and put it all together.
The major challenge for Sharif now is figuring out what to write about.
“I’m not making music right now because I don’t know what to write about,” he says. “In Lebanon I was writing about what I was feeling, but now everything is fine.”
He is starting to find his new niche; Sharif recently finished writing a song about love, which he plans to record soon.
He’s also in the middle of completing an IT programming course, another passion of his, so he can pursue a career in the field.
More than anything though, he’s happy that he and his mother have found a good life for themselves in New Zealand.
You can hear more of Sharif's music through his YouTube channel.
How to help
You can support refugee resettlement in your local community and help former refugees like Sharif achieve their goals in New Zealand. We’re always looking for refugee support volunteers to be the friendly faces that welcome our newest Kiwis. You can apply to join our team here.