Eight years ago, at Southport Brewing Company‘s karaoke night, Dylan Connor saw a woman so beautiful, he had to talk to her.
She was not as impressed.
“She said she was studying finance at the University of Bridgeport, but was going home soon to Syria,” Dylan recalls. “I had no idea where Syria was.”
She wouldn’t give him her phone number. Nor would she take his.
Finally, in desperation, Dylan — a singer/songwriter — gave her a copy of his CD.
A few days later she called. She’d listened to a couple of Dylan’s anti-George Bush, anti-Iraq War songs. She hadn’t known Americans could think like that.
She started to like him. Still, Reem said, they could never be together. Her culture would not allow it.
“That made me free,” Dylan recalls. “We could just be friends. I didn’t think of anything beyond that point.”
Over long walks, they fell in love.
After many months, her family gave permission to get married. They found an apartment in Black Rock. Their daughter, Fayrouz, was born in 2008.
Life was changing for Dylan. A Westport native — his father, Dave, is a well-known therapist and former English teacher here — Dylan grew up next door to Trevor and Davis Coen. Their house was always filled with music. At 9, Dylan started guitar lessons. In high school he formed a band — the Exceptions –with Davis, Trevor and Joe Izzo.
At Skidmore College Dylan got into the solo/folk/coffeehouse songwriting and performing scene. After college he started another band — M.Headphone — and moved to San Francisco. They toured, and did well. Dylan had a part-time gig teaching Latin at a Berkeley private school (his degree was in classics).
In 2003 he moved back east, hooked up with producer/indie rock hero Bryce Goggin, and made a record.
Then he met Reem.
The summer after they were married, the couple traveled to Syria. Dylan was overwhelmed by the country’s history, beauty, incredible food, wonderful sights and fantastic people.
“I had known something about Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, but nothing about Syria,” Dylan says. “Our press portrayed it as a place for terrorists. I didn’t know it was so secular in dress and style. There are clubs. Syrians know how to have a good time.”
Inspired, Dylan wrote a song, called “Blood Like Fire.” It was filled with dark images. He could not figure out why. He now realizes it was prescient.
Two years later — now, with a baby – they returned. Dylan played a couple of concerts there. The family planned to visit Syria every 2 years.
The revolution interrupted all that.
Seeing horrific photos and videos of protesters being shot, Dylan felt compelled to do something. He added graphic images to his “Blood Like Fire” song, and posted it to YouTube.
Syrian revolution blogs picked it up. Hundreds of people commented.
Reem’s family is from Dera’a, where the uprising began. In March 2011 the city was under siege. Communication was impossible. Finally, Dylan and Reem heard that her family was safe. Dylan — who had been learning Arabic — wrote another song, “Feza, Feza.” It translates as “Help, Help For Our Province.”
Within 48 hours he recorded it, and made a video. It took off on YouTube, and was played on the Al Aribiya television network. Syrians were moved that Americans cared.
A third song, “Weary World,” was inspired by the siege of Homs.
“I felt like I was connecting to Syrians,” Dylan says. He was invited to perform around the US, at fundraisers for humanitarian relief. He was given a plaque, for helping the cause.
Last January, Dylan organized a fundraiser in New York. He also performed at the larger “Songs for Syria” event there.
Playing at a Syrian wedding in Detroit, Dylan met a man from Dubai. He wanted to contribute to the revolution, by supporting Dylan’s recordings and videos. Dylan went into the studio with Westporters Trevor Coen, Joey Izzo, Merritt Jacob and Mark Mollica. The songs, with accompanying video, will be released internationally within a month.
Americans may not know much of what’s happening in Syria, Dylan says, but when they hear of it — sometimes through his work — they’re “stunned.”
His students (he’s also a Latin teacher at Bunnell High in Stratford) “soak it up,” Dylan says.
“They’re riveted by my updates. They’re shocked by the brutality. They want to know more.”
Dylan Connor is eager to teach us — and them — all that he knows.