|Maya Youssef||The Seven gates of Damascus|
|Harmonia Mundi||17 Nov 2017|
Maya Youssef — The Seven gates of Damascus (17 Nov 2017)ζ→ Maya Youssef: Syrian Dreams review — powerful homage twists Arabic music cliches. Maya Youssef is a virtuoso of the kanun, a traditional Syrian 78~stringed plucked zither. Her extraordinary musical gift and generosity of outlook, warmth, humour and optimism have brought comparisons with such legendary virtuosos as Ravi Shankar, Yehudi Menhuin and Meredith Monk.
Location: Damascus, Syria ~ London , United Kingdom
Genre: World music, Chamber music, Middle Eastern Music, Acoustic Instrumental music
Album release: 17 Nov 2017
Record Label: Harmonia Mundi
1 Horizon 2:14
2 Bombs Turn Into Roses 3:56
3 Hi~Jazz 3:59
4 Touta (Arr. Maya Youssef) 6:02
5 Queen Of The Night 6:37
6 Syrian Dreams 3:20
7 The Seven Gates Of Damascus 10:53
8 Breakthrough 5:26
9 The Sea 4:23
★ Barney Morse~Brown — Cello
★ Joe Boyd — Executive Producer
★ Maya Youssef — Kanun
★ Attab Haddad — Oud
★ Sebastian Flaig — Percussion
★ Jerry Boys — Producer, Engineer
ζ→ Maya Youssef: Syrian Dreams review — powerful homage twists Arabic music cliches.
Robin Denselow, Thursday 16 November 2017 18.15 GMT / Score: ****
ζ→ Born in Damascus, Maya Youssef is a virtuoso performer on the qanun, the traditional Middle Eastern plucked zither. She moved to London under the Arts Council’s “exceptional talent” scheme, and has played at the Proms and alongside Damon Albarn. Here she demonstrates the range and power of her 78~stringed instrument on a “personal journey through the six years of war in Syria”. It’s an often exquisite, emotional set that constantly changes mood, from sorrow to hope, on compositions that range from the “prayer for peace” of the title track to the lengthy The Seven Gates of Damascus, in which she pays tribute to her battered homeland. Her music may be based on the scales and modes of the traditional Arabic maqam, but there are echoes of everything from jazz to flamenco here, and the backing is equally inventive, with thoughtful cello work from Barney Morse~Brown matched against incisive oud and hand percussion. ζ→ https://www.theguardian.com/
ζ→ The Seven Gates of Damascus: A Musical intervention with Syrian Refugee children
ζ→ “The Seven Gates of Damascus” is a 7~part interactive musical performance and story~telling workshop which aims to alleviate the effects of trauma experienced by refugee children as a result of the conflict in Syria. This will include post~performance focus groups with children and their guardians where children will have the space to vocalize their thoughts and feelings after the experience. The seven sections will take participant children on a journey through the seven gates. Throughout this journey, I will be performing live music on the qanun whilst telling a story. The journey is an analogy of the actual journey refugee children had to take from their homeland to a place of peace. The seven stages of the story will unfold in tandem with seven musical units.
ζ→ I have based the methodology on my experience with London~ based, therapeutic theatre production company Oily Cart. Oily Cart is a London~based theatre production company which dedicates its work solely to children with autism (ASD) and to young audiences with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD). My work with the company entailed a development period in Michael Tippett School in Loughborough Junction, south London. During this five~week period I witnessed the birth process of the show entitled ‘Bounce’ and collaborated closely with the company’s Director of Music and BBC presenter Max Reinhardt. My work with Reinhardt involved co~composing and co~arranging the music for two versions of the show (PMLD and ASD).
ζ→ “I was born in Damascus into a progressive family of writers and artists. In Syria music is at once an integral part of people’s lives and also an ancient tradition that goes back thousands of years. I always wanted to be a musician. I never planned or envisioned anything besides that. I think it boils down to two things: the first is sticking with it, the instrument, the music, the life of a musician; the second is being true to myself, even if that means I am constantly challenged and pushing the boundaries by doing something new, wonderful, scary and completely out of my comfort zone. At home, we had a huge collection of music from all over the world: Arabic classical, jazz, fusion, world, Tibetan monks, Western classical, so I grew up in Damascus listening to all of this music.
ζ→ I started studying music aged 7 at the Sulhi al~Wadi Institute of Music in Damascus. When I was 9 years old it was time to choose an instrument. My family bought me a violin, which I reluctantly agreed to learn. One day I was heading towards the Institute with my mother, and the taxi driver was playing a recording of an enchanting instrument that blew my mind. I asked the taxi driver which instrument we were listening to and he told me it was the qanun. I told him that I was determined to learn it. His reply shocked me, but it kindled a flame within me. He told me I was a girl and that girls just don’t play the qanun. This is a man’s instrument, he grinned, played only by men. He advised me to forget about it. I challenged him and said, I will learn to play the qanun! He laughed at me. Later that same day, as I was sitting in my solfeggio (pitch and sight~singing) class, the head of the institute walked in and announced that the quanun class was open for enrolment. I immediately enrolled, with the full support of my parents, who then replaced the violin they had bought me with a qanun.
ζ→ At the age of 12 I was fortunate enough to win the Best Musician Award in the National Music Competition for Youth. I continued at the High Institute of Music and Dramatic Arts in Damascus studying for a BA in Music, specialising in qanun, whilst at the same time studying for a BA in English Literature at the University of Damscaus.
ζ→ In 2007 I moved to Dubai to focus on my solo career. Fairly quickly I found myself performing at venues such as Al Qasba Sarjah, The Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Foundation in Dubai, and Burj Al Arab, and being interviewed by leading Arabic TV channels. In 2009 I was invited onto the full~time faculty to teach qanun and theory of Arabic music (maqam) at Oman’s Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat. Performing and teaching in Oman was a wonderful experience. However, I wanted to be in a place where I could perform on an international platform and engage with musicians and audiences from all over the world. So I chose London and applied for the UK government’s Exceptional Talent scheme, whereby 300 artists are endorsed each year by Arts Council England and selected from around the world to migrate to the UK, where I continue to live and study, currently undertaking a PhD at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), looking at how music can be used as a healing too, working with Syrian refugee children at camps in Jordan and Europe.
ζ→ The war started in my homeland in 2011. From that point on, making music was no longer a choice, it was a crucial tool to express and come to terms with intense feelings of loss and sadness after seeing my people suffer and my land destroyed. On a hot summer’s afternoon in London in 2012 I was watching the news. At the time I felt overwhelmed, as if I was going to explode, so I held my qanun and “Syrian dreams” came out of me. That was the very first piece of music I wrote.
ζ→ My album ‘Syrian dreams’ is my personal journey through the 6 years of war in Syria. It is a translation of my memories of home and my feelings into music. I see the act of playing music as the opposite of death; it is a life and hope~affirming act. To me music is my healer and an antidote to what is happening, not only in Syria, but in the whole world. I like to think that my music brings people back to humanity and to their heart centers, where no harm can be done to any form of life and where all can exist together in peace.” — Maya
|Maya Youssef||The Seven gates of Damascus|
|Harmonia Mundi||17 Nov 2017|