Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Arab Alternative Music (4): Syria

One does not need more than a quick look to its musical production to understand that Syria is not anymore an isolated country living under particular conditions. Some ten years ago, like in the surrounding countries, a new generation of musicians has appeared, opening the classical repertoire to the last trends in world music. With a very few exceptions like Al-Theatro, a popular venue opened by actress May Skaf, well trained musicians lack places to perform.

The turning point for the alternative music came with a band called Kulna Sawa (كلنا سوى : All together) by the mid 90’s. Thanks to its production, the Syrian audience has learnt how to appreciate a kind of “oriental fusion,” meaning the mixing of Oriental musical traditions with rhythms and melodic lines coming from other cultures.

For many people, Hiwar (حوار : dialogue), founded in 2003 by Kinan Azmeh and Issam Rafea, is today the leading band for this kind of music in today Middle-East.

“Oriental jazz” is a trend represented in Syria by Lina Shamamian (لينا شماميان) who sings with local saxophone and trumpet player Basel Rajoub. Their first record in 2006 was a audacious interpretation of various local traditional songs, something which raised a new and interesting issue for today’s Syrian culture, that of the intellectual property of the classical repertoire when “remixed” by contemporary players.

Of course, there is also rock or folk music in Syria, distributed by Incognito, the Lebanese producer of alternative music, along with another interesting group founded in 2004 by Issam Refat (also playing with Hiwar). Playing in a more classical mood, the band is called Twais (طويس), a tribute to the first singer of the Islamic era who, according to tradition, was born in Madina and who died in Bosra (south Syria).

A way to make clear that alternative music aims at a real revival of the tradition.

Follow that link to read the original post in French.

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