The tragic events still unfolding in Syria have inflicted untold damage on its people and destroyed the fabric of society, bringing into question its national identity and fomenting ethnic and religious hatred in a land whose people have heretofore celebrated diversity. In the face of such pressures, music can serve three main purposes: to remind all Syrian people of their shared heritage and identity, to serve as a focus of hope for a positive future and to provide Syria’s musicians with a voice by which to share their love of their country and to make an active contribution toward healing its wounds. The project also hopes to raise awareness and respect for Syria’s culture and people among world audiences and to gain wider visibility for talented Syrian artists who are unknown outside their homeland. Especially for those people who don’t know much about our country, we hope the opportunity to experience Syrian music, from the archaic to the modern, will give them a new appreciation for the complexity and beauty of our heritage and remind them of how much humanity holds in common.
Thus, it is hoped the Project will provide new insights into the capability of web outlets, modern social media platforms and live performances to sustain the cultural presence of a country under siege. It will also test the ability of music and culture to provide a safe harbor and to project a national identity for all Syrians based on a common heritage that transcends current political strife.
Phase One of the Project will set up a professionally developed website with information streams adapted to professional music makers, foundations and the wider international audience, a YouTube channel containing archived recordings from concerts and festivals throughout the last decade, a Facebook page dedicated to posting materials from the archives and encouraging discussion in both Arabic and English and a Twitter account to promote the other pages, share links and photos and alert users to live events.These online assets will, as appropriate, provide access to live recordings, to conference papers and discussions by world ranking scholars of ethnomusicology, to bios of Syrian musicians, to historical facts about music and culture in Syria and the surrounding region.The social media assets will be used to project a daily, immediate access to the living fabric of Syria’s still vibrant cultural life.All assets will be cross-promoting so that no matter the portal through which a user enters, the entire network of information and conversation will be easily available.
Phase Two of the Project will move beyond online presentation, to organize a series of concerts and mini-concerts in venues throughout Europe and elsewhere.In this way, the tradition of live Syrian music will be kept current until it becomes possible to hold such events in Syria once more.The concerts will be augmented by interviews with the performing artists and with respected scholars of ethnomusicology and culture, many of whom participated in past fora in Syria.
Civil war torn Syrian needs to be reminded of the presence and coexistence of its many communities.The Project team has organized dozensof concerts in Syria stressing the fact of coexistence and respect. Many musicians incarnate these goals: the fact that most Syrian bands are made up of membersfrom different communities and religious backgrounds provides a living example of tolerance for diversity and helps to stress unity in the minds of viewers and listeners.
Inprevious festivalsthe Project teaminvited Syria’s neighboring countriestoparticipatethrough the presence of artists and scholars, highlighting the region’s common ground. The holding of similar events in the future will certainly providemaximum exposure for such ideas and will show our common culturaland musical heritage, ancient and contemporary.
Working in music projects with musicians from neighboringcountries, the Muslim world and the West will bring knowledge and new possibilities. Above all, working togetherin high visibility projects suchas we are planning will necessarily foster cultural understanding and coexistence with these countries and in general as well. The fact that we share these goals with several international foundations is sufficient reason to cooperate on certain projects.
We hope our project will provide hope and common identity to the people of Syria who have seen everything taken from them in the past two years. We also hope that the project will confirm, internationally, a positive picture of a living and vibrant Syrian culture and heritage to offset the very grim news from our homeland.We believe the continued interaction of Syrian and international musicians, artists and scholars will help to prevent the Syrian people from being isolated and will ease the transition to the more normal times which we hope are coming to our country in the near future.
The Project founding and advisory board members include:
John Kieffer,writer, policy adviser, producer, business mentor and consultant. He has over 25 years’ experience in international cultural policy, arts funding, creative programming, arts management, creative industries development, and the music industry.
BasselKaghadou, currently programme coordinator at UN-ESCWA, has worked for 23 years in the areas of aid management and coordination, aid effectiveness, communication and advocacy, and the management and implementing of different projects in various non industrialized countries. He has have an extensive working experience with both international agencies, including those of the UN.
Kinan Azmeh, clarinetist and composer, produces an utterly distinctive sound across different musical genres is now fast gaining international recognition. Kinan has appeared worldwide as a soloist, composer and improviser. His compositions include several works for solo, orchestra and chamber music, as well as film, live illustration and electronics. His discography include three albums with his ensemble Hewar, several soundtracks for film and dance and a duo album with pianist DinukWijeratne. He served as Artistic Director of the Damascus Festival Chamber Music Ensemble, with whom he released an album of new contemporary Syrian chamber music written especially for the ensemble by various composers and is on the advisory board of the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra.
The working team for Phase One of the Project includes: LaithHashem(media technicalassistant), Hassan Elrayess(video and audiotechnical assistant), Mays Domat(website designer and technical support) and Tony Overwater(technical consultant).In addition to the above mentioned, the working team for Phase Two of the Project will include a sound technician for broadcast and local event and media coordinators for each city concerts will take place.
Some of our current teamparticipated in previous projects and have proven their ability to organize and promote world class cultural events. Our new team members maintain the same professional standards.
The participating scholars will include, among others:Mahmoud Guettat (Tunisia), Theo Krispijn (the Netherlands), Richard Dumbrill (UK), Jean During (France), NidaAbouMrad (Lebanon), FawazBaqer(Syria), Richard Lowel (USA), AmeenBayhom(Lebanon), all available for interviews.
Thefollowing organizations have pledged to support the Project or have expressed a strong interest in supporting it. Phase One of the Project will be sponsored bythe Foreign Ministry ofNorway andHivos (the Netherlands); Phase Two will be sponsored by the European Union, the European Cultural Foundation (the Netherlands),ArtLink Foundation (Switzerland), the Morgenland Festival (Germany), the Oslo World Festival (Norway), the FestspillnnFestival (Norway), The Aga Khan Foundation, as well as a number of media outlets.
The goal of this Project is to keep a positive vision of Syria and Syrian music alive by using modern communication technologies to do what can no longer be done in Damascus, Aleppo or Homs. Phase One of the project will create the necessary online infrastructure and populate it with material drawn from previous concerts and festivals. Phase Two of the project will bring Syrian musicians together with international musicians in a series of venues outside Syria, with both live-streaming of the events and recordings of those concerts and interviews with the musicians added to the online site.