To many, the American Dream is to live a wealthy life.
But Ashraf Hakim came to America to pursue something more – the freedom to play his cello.
The Egyptian native played first chair for the Cairo Opera House, Arabic Symphony Orchestra and Egyptian National Cultural Theater.
But his maestro called him a “crazy cellist.”
“The cellists over there were like employees,” Hakim recalled, who played for a customer appreciation party for the Mavodo boutique in Bellevue Square on Friday, Dec. 5. “I told them I’m not an employee. I’m full of power, I’m full of energy – I want to fly with my cello in to the sky.”
So Hakim came to the United States a few years ago to put his own creative spin on his instrument as a soloist. For now, he is living with friends in Redmond while he is looking for permanent housing and a more stable living situation.
“My cello is my religion. My cello is my humanity. My cello is my dignity. My cello is my art, my love – everything,” he said.
In America, Hakim said he feels more freedom to play an eclectic mix of jazz, classical, Arabic, Egyptian or the blues.
But he has also learned that dreams take some persistence, and the help of a few friends along the way.
Mark and Mary Dunphy were first captured by Hakim’s music when he played at their Kirkland home for a charity event they hosted.
“Until he played at my house, I thought of a cellist as playing all classical. He’s not that,” said Mark, who is helping Hakim to find regular gigs around the Eastside.
With no home, car or much money for food, Hakim said he is fighting to survive, and to convince society what he is willing to do as an artist. He also hopes his love of music will earn him enough to bring his two children over from Egypt, 15-year-old Karim and his daughter, 12-year-old Mariam.
“Money is important, but it’s not my target,” he said. “My living, my income, my soul, my heart – everything in my life is music from my cello.”