The refugees in Syrian rock band Khebez Dawle play concert in Croatia

After their drummer was murdered, presumably by pro-government forces in Syria who objected to his active participation in protests, the remaining members of Khebez Dawle fled to Beirut where they were able to build a following and record their first LP (available on CD Baby), a post-rock concept album about a Syrian youth in the midst of violence and civil war.

Despite finding a musical footing in Lebanon, the band members were, according to this NPR story, “still refugees, stuck illegally in a tiny country.” They decided to make the dangerous — and expensive — journey to Europe in order to seek asylum.

They met in Turkey and sold all their instruments to pay the smuggler who would bring them in a small boat across the Mediterranean to Greece, and that was just the beginning. Along the way they made friends and played a kind of ambassadorial role for Syrian refugees at large by handing out CDs to people they met, from Greek tourists to Croatian border patrol guards.

More details about their journey are in this piece by Huffington Post, but here’s what it says about the band’s entrance into Croatia:

The Croatian police detained the band members and forced them to register as refugees in Croatia, despite their aspirations to reach Germany and launch their music project worldwide. They had no idea they would find an audience there. The band performed a live concert in Kutina, Croatia, on Sept. 20, for almost an hour, singing songs from their first and only album, Khebez Dawle.

“The refugees in the audience hailed from every country except Syria. We were the first eight Syrians in that refugee center,” Maghrebi said. “We used instruments that belong to Croatians who were impressed by our music, and asked us to put on this concert.” The band members felt that they could express themselves through the music.

Anas Maghrebi, one of the band members, said, “Music is the language we use to say that we are civilized people. We always used to take planes to travel abroad, but circumstances have forced us to go on this smuggling trip across sea and land.”

I hope the band’s riskiest travels are behind them, and that they’ll find somewhere safe to settle soon. In the meantime, fellas, cheers for playing your music along the way and “putting a human face” on this crisis.

For more on Khebez Dawle, check out the band’s website.

For more about the Syrian refugee crisis, check out this short video: