Kinan Abou-afach

30 Nov 2016


Kinan Abou-Afach, 2013 Pew Fellow. Photo by Colin Lenton.

"I have engaged in my travel, so I hope I arrive."

Cellist, composer, and classical Arab musician Kinan Abou-afach (b. 1977) was born in Damascus, Syria, where at the age of seven he began learning traditional Arabic repertoire on the oud, an Arabic lute. "Damascus was a huge influence on me—a place where you can hear the Muslim call of prayer mixed with church bells," says Abou-afach. "Mosques and churches playing simultaneously: that sweet sound was my first lesson in polyphony and harmony." He studied cello at the Arabic Institute of Music and played in the Syrian Orchestra as a youth musician, often getting into trouble for improvising on his instrument. Since arriving in the United States in 2000, Abou-afach has found additional inspiration in American jazz and the inherent freedoms of the form. As a professional musician, he has performed with many well-known musicians and ensembles such as Youssou N'Dour and also appears on a recording of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project. Now residing in Philadelphia, Abou-afach performs extensively with Arabic cultural organization Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture and continues to seek opportunities for cross-pollination between Arab, European, and American styles and traditions. In 2015, Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture will premiere new work by Abou-afach as part of That Which Is Adorned, a concert, booklet, and website produced with Center support.

Kinan Abou-afach, "White Dream," for cello ensemble.