Muslim-American Country Singer in Syria, Tours Middle East

But that new beginning has been hard to forge, especially in Syria. Washington just renewed economic sanctions on Syria, and has yet to send an ambassador to Damascus after a roughly five year absence. Syria is close ally of Iran, a supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah, and technically at war with Israel.

Yet Syria has also emerged as a keystone of U.S. objectives in the Middle East. A possible Syrian-Israeli peace has long been seen as a way to untie the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. Syria's leverage with Iran and neighborly relations with Iraq give it a hand in the success of U.S. policy.

Salama's music reaches just a relatively small and already Western-friendly group. Roughly 1,000 people came to the shows in Syria, a country of 27 million.

"There may be 500 people at one concert," said Barrosse, "but when they walk away, they walk away with a different impression and vision of the United States."

"They'll have a context when they see the United States in the news or anywhere else? you have opened the door for a subsequent relationship," he said.

Salama's tour comes after a long drought of American music in Syria. Last month hip hop artists Chen Lo and the Liberation Family played in Syria, also sponsored by the State Department, in what was the first such concert in years.

Salama Bridges East and West with Music

Salama plans to release a version of his next album in the Middle East, and return to the region.

"I represent something to a lot of people, which is the idea that two things that seem opposite can come together in one person," said Salama.

"For them maybe I represent the idea that we can accept one another."

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