Maya Youssef – Syrian Dreams (2017) [Qobuz FLAC 24bit/96kHz]

Maya Youssef – Syrian Dreams (2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz  | Time – 49:41 minutes | 947 MB | Genre: World
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Front Cover | © harmonia mundi

The latest release in harmonia mundi’s fascinating Latitudes series features Maya Youssef, a virtuoso of the qanun, a traditional Syrian zither. Youssef’s extraordinary musical gift and generosity of outlook, warmth, humor and optimism have brought comparisons with such legendary virtuosos as Ravi Shankar, Yehudi Menuhin and Meredith Monk. Syrian Dreams was written to express Youssef’s powerful feelings of loss and sadness over the tragedy and suffering occurring in her homeland.

Combining her extraordinary talent and dexterity, Maya Youssef has crafted a unique and innovative approach to playing the qanun, a traditional Syrian 78 stringed plucked zither famed for its penetrating and illustrious sound. To Maya, the act of playing music is a life and hope-affirming act; a space and musical solace where harm and pain is not only hindered, but reversed. Her latest album, produced by Jerry Boys, the Grammy-winning engineer of the Buena Vista Social Club series, and overseen by renowned record producer Joe Boyd, reveals an unparalleled work of musical ingenuity, agility and finesse, firmly placing her amongst some of the most skilled qanun players of her generation.

Presented with double bass and percussion, ‘Syrian Dreams’ is Maya Youssef’s personal journey through the 6 years of war in Syria, a translation of her memories of home and an expression of a deeply rooted connected to her music. Her journey with the qanun spans back to her youth in Damascus, where she was nationally recognised by the age of 12 and went on to graduate from the High Institute of Music and Dramatic Arts in Damascus. After having taught qanun at Oman’s Sultan Qaboos University, she was endorsed by the Arts Council England to move to London as part of their ‘Exceptional Talent Scheme’, where she now teaches, plays and researches. Currently undertaking a PhD at SOAS, she is examining the significance and adaptability of music as a healing tool, with a focus on Syrian refugee children at camps in Lebanon and Europe.

Debuting her highly anticipated first album, Maya will be supported by Basel Saleh of the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians, renowned Syrian oud player, conductor and choir leader whose stunning work has resonated far beyond his native Homs to be featured throughout prestigious festivals in the Middle East and Europe.

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.

01 – Maya Youssef and Barney Morse-Brown – Horizon
02 – Maya Youssef, Barney Morse-Brown and Sebastian Flaig – Bombs turn into roses
03 – Maya Youssef and Sebastian Flaig – Hi-Jazz
04 – Maya Youssef, Barney Morse-Brown, Sebastian Flaig and Attab Haddad – Touta (Arranged Maya Youssef)
05 – Maya Youssef, Barney Morse-Brown and Sebastian Flaig – Queen of the night
06 – Maya Youssef – Syrian Dreams
07 – Maya Youssef, Barney Morse-Brown, Sebastian Flaig and Attab Haddad – The Seven gates of Damascus
08 – Maya Youssef, Barney Morse-Brown and Sebastian Flaig – Breakthrough
09 – Maya Youssef, Barney Morse-Brown and Sebastian Flaig – The Sea
10 – Maya Youssef, Sebastian Flaig and Attab Haddad – Awatef [Bonus Track]

Produced and engineered by Jerry Boys.

Maya Youssef – ganun
Barney Morse-Brown – cello
Attab Haddad – oud
Sebastian Flaig – percussion



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