"Through my work, students and adults are becoming more aware and open to my culture. That is what I most want to accomplish."
Hafez Javier Kotain (b. 1975) is a percussionist and teacher, fluent in both Arab and Latin rhythms. As a child, he learned to play the goblet drum (doumbek), performing on stage for the first time at age nine, and going on to study with master Syrian percussionist Hady Jazan. In Venezuela, the country of his birth, Kotain first began his career as an educator, teaching a variety of percussion styles to budding musicians—work he continues today with Philadelphia-area nonprofit cultural organizations. "Although many pop songs incorporate Arab rhythms and melodies, most listeners are unaware of the origins," Kotain says. Kotain performs with Al-Bustan's resident takht ensemble and Intercultural Journeys, an organization that seeks to bridge cultural divides through the arts and live performance. He performed with acclaimed artists such as pop artist Sting, actor and tenor Mandy Patinkin, Syrian singer George Wassouf, and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Percussionist Hafez El Ali Kotain at Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture's Arab Music Concert Series, November 18, 2011. Video courtesy of Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture.