St Christopher

Voices of Syria
Event 8
Wednesday October 16th, 8.00pm 
Little Missenden Church

Musical treasures of the Middle East

This is an archived event from the 2013 Programme.

DIWAN:  Alia Alzougbi storyteller  Kholoud Mahafza singer Louai Alhenawi ney flute  Roskar Nasan oud  Andy Hamill bass  Vasilis Sarikis percussion

We only hear of Syria’s terrible armed conflict these days, yet the region was one of the earliest cradles of civilisation.  Most Westerners know little about its ancient and beautiful traditions of music, poetry, dance and storytelling.

But music is a universal language. If we open our ears its magic communicates even between people who can’t understand each other’s words. 

The instrumental music, songs and stories you will hear derive from Arab classical and folk culture, embracing the Hakawatee and Khayaal El Zil traditions.  Much of it is from Syrian sources, from the heart of old Damascus.  Some draws on the Sufi tradition of ecstatic poetry, music and dance.

The oud and the ney flute are among the world’s most ancient instruments. The ney is an end-blown reed flute, a very expressive instrument with a beautiful sound, breathy but plangent.  The agile oud is the forerunner of the European lute and guitar families.  Arab drums like the riqq, daf and darbuka will be used.

You will also hear a storyteller.  In the Hakawatee tradition, central to Arab culture for many centuries, talented storytellers held people spellbound, working from a mixture of memory and improvisation, sometimes developing their story over long periods of time.  Alia Alzougbi will give us a taste of the craft, her story framing the music, and woven round the famous Golden String of Damascus. 

The London-based Diwan Foundation, co-directed by Louai Alhenawi and Alia Alzougbi, focuses on music, storytelling and dance from the Eastern Mediterranean, Western Asia and North Africa.

Louai Alhenawi is a Syrian-born musician, composer and teacher, specialising in ney flute, Arabic percussion and Middle Eastern music. He studied and then taught at the eminent Damascus Conservatoire.

Alia Alzougbi is an award-winning actress, storyteller and dancer, part-Lebanese, part-Syrian, now UK-based.

To access Diwan's website, click here.