Saturday 14th May
Ikon Gallery – 6pm
1 Oozells Street, Brindley Place, Birmingham B1 2HS
Free Entry (donations greatly received)
Virtuoso Syrian Kanun player Maya Youssef comes from a family of artists and has a unique approach to playing the traditional instrument, the kanun. Expanding her audiences to international platforms, he has performed world-wide and has won the Exceptional Talent award. She is currently working on her debut album, and researching “Music Healing for Syrian Refugee Children” for her PhD. Maya is a regular on the BBC and featured at the BBC Proms at The Royal Albert Hall amongst other prestigious venues and festivals. Described as “elegant” and “entrancing” by BBC Radio 3.
Her musical appreciation started when she was just a child. Maya describes a defining moment of her life when she was nine of age “At the beginning, I decided to learn the Violin” says Maya in an interview on Dubai TV “But one day I was heading towards the music institute and the taxi driver was playing a recording of an enchanting instrument that blew my mind! When I asked the taxi driver which instrument was that and told him that I was determined to learn it, he laughed and said that it was very rare to see a female kanun player since this instrument is mainly played by men. At the same day and to the shock of my parents I cancelled my Violin classes and enrolled to learn the kanun”
Since then, Maya began her lifelong musical career with the Kanun at Sulhi Alwadi Music Institute in Damascus. Maya won Best Musician Award in Syria’s youth national music Competition, and in 2007 completed her BA in Music from the High Institute of Music & Theatrical Arts in Damascus, where she was trained in classical Arabic, Western, Turkish and Azerbaijani Kanun schools. Parallel to her music studies, she obtained a BA degree in English Literature from the University of Damascus. During her studies at the high institute at Damascus, she along with other six female musicians formed a band with the aim to revive forgotten Arabic and Syrian traditional music and to bring back a tradition where female performers were the preserves of the heritage. Maya along with the band toured internationally both the Arab world Europe till 2007 when she moved to Dubai. There, Maya focused on her solo career and immediately drew the media attention. She was interviewed by leading Arabic TV channels and per-formed at eminent venues.
As a an acclaimed Kanun expert, Maya was invited in 2009 to become a full time faculty to teach kanun and theory of Arabic music (maqam) at Oman’s Sultan Qaboos University’s Department of Music and Musicology where she continued to teach undergraduates there till late 2011. In early 2012, Arts Council of England endorsed Maya along with 300 artists from all over the world as an Exceptional Talent, which has enabled her to migrate to the UK to develop her career. Since then, Maya gave performances at many prestigious venues and festivals. As well as performing Maya is a recording artist. The sound of her kanun resonated in different programs, documentaries and movies.
In 2013, Maya was awarded a scholarship towards completing her masters in ethnomusi-cology at SOAS where she is also teaching the kanun and directing SOAS Middle Eastern Ensemble. Currently Maya is researching how music can be used as a healing tool working with Syrian refugee children at the camps as her PhD project at SOAS.
Whether it is an experimental collaboration such as Maya’s work with the Elysian Quartet or playing Vivaldi’s the four seasons with a Symphony orchestra or a cross cultural collaboration with an Indian Tabla, an Australian aboriginal double base, or an African Kora, or in her own compositions, Maya actively explores the limitless possibilities for her instrument in exciting ways. At the same time, Maya perceives herself as a carrier of an ancient tradition which goes back to thousands of years and a messenger of peace who actively uses music to build bridges and make a difference.