The Celebrating Syria festival kicked off on Monday 10th July with the wonderful Duo Zaman concert at the Emmanuel Church performed by Rihab Azar and Jamal Alsakka. . In Arabic, ‘Zamaan’ means time but the word can also be used to refer to the past. This dynamic sense of the word resonates with Rihab’s drive in her musical journey: reflecting on the past, celebrating it with the essence of the present, and passing it forward to live on through the listener. Rihab’s oud, accompanied by Jamal’s percussive rhythms, revives, celebrates and builds on gems of Arabic and Middle-Eastern music.
Rihab comes from a long line of respected musicians, artists and poets from the Syrian city of Homs. Her father, Luthier Samir Azar taught her on the first Oud he made for her at the age of seven.
Rihab graduated from the Higher Institute of Music in Damascus in 2014. She performed as a soloist, accompanied by the Syrian National Orchestra and, as a principle oud player in the all-women Syrian Oriental Takht, touring extensively across the Middle East. In 2015, she was awarded a prestigious Chevening scholarship to study an MA in Music Education at UCL. Now based in London, and recognised by Arts Council England as an Exceptional Promise, Rihab has appeared with Sahana Pajpaie, Damon Albarn and has contributed to the track of Requiem for Aleppo, which debuted in April 2017 at Sadler’s Wells.
Jamal is one of the most well-known Syrian percussionists whose performance and teaching style reflect the essence of authentic Middle-Easter music. He has worked with several high-profile artists and has been a core member in numerous prominent ensembles and orchestras touring around the Arab world and Europe. Jamal is an influential figure in the field of music teaching, research and instrument making. He taught at the Conservatoire of Damascus, gave workshops at universities in France and Finland, received appreciation certificates for his work at Yangon Institute in Germany, Instituto Cervantes in Spain, and Konya Metropolitan Municipality in Turkey. Jamal is the author of the three-volume book: “The Correct in Rhythm” about traditional rhythms in Arabic and Turkish music.
Delicious Syrian food and soulful music made for a lovely evening.