Maya Youssef at Songlines Encounters: Born in Damascus, Maya Youssef is a virtuoso on the qanun, the magnificent Arabic zither that is at the heart of Arabic classical music. Now based in the UK, thanks to an Arts Council Exceptional Talent Scheme, she released her highly-praised debut album Syrian Dreams in November. Accompanied by percussion and cello, she performs music lamenting the war in her homeland and celebrating its rich cultural and architectural heritage.
Below are just some of the highlights to give you an idea of what is happening.
I also want to link you to my latest article, which is a review of the French-Algerian film 'I Still Hide to Smoke', that is being screened as part of the annual Film Africa Festival this week.
Goats - Top Choice for Theatre
Maya Youssef Album Launch: Combining extraordinary talent and dexterity, Maya Youssef crafts an innovative approach to playing the qanun, the traditional Syrian 78 stringed plucked zither famed for its penetrating and illustrious sound.
Souk for Syria: An exciting cultural and musical fundraiser for the Levantine Relief Network, a grassroots Syrian charity that provides education and aid to displaced Syrians. The Souq will be a magical journey through a traditional Syrian market where Middle Eastern arts, crafts, jewellery, toys and Syrian cuisine will be available.
'Encampment by Good Chance': Part of the 'Festival of Love' at the Southbank Centre, 'Encampment by Good Chance' is a wonderful programme of art, discussion and hope for the future, inspired by the temporary theatre of hope that was set up at the Calais 'Jungle' refugee camp; providing a space of welcome and expression and housing a daily programme of theatre, art, music, discussion and workshops, with special guests and performances.
The Food - Fancy a Culinary Experience?
Firstly a subject that I have not covered much before: food! Yes, you can now read my review of a beautiful culinary book that every Arab needs to have in her or his kitchen library. With Sherine Ben Halim Jafar's instructions, you can be sure that any planned dinner party will now turn out to be a huge gastronomic success!
Tarek Abdallah + Adel Shams El Din (Songlines): A wonderful opportunity to attend two fantastic acts from the Middle East. Tarek Abdallah and Adel Shams el Din (Egypt) have just released the album 'Wasla' in collaboration with Songlines. Originally from Alexandria, but currently based in France, the duo are fluent in the language of Egyptian classical tradition and are able to evoke the fascinating history of this music while extending it with spirited and contemporary inspired compositions.
Crossing Borders, Uniting Rhythms: English Pen and Arts Canteen present an evening of spoken word and music with a focus on freedom of expression in issues around identity, art, music and free speech.
Contemporary Flamenco Night: An evening of flamenco musicians and performers where collaboration is a way of exploring artistic paths and breaking-down long-standing cultural and historical barriers. Featuring the Belgian Myrddin, who is a master of the Spanish-Flamenco guitar, who will be celebrating his fourth album 'Rosa de Papel'. He will be joined by Maya Youssef, a Syrian kanun player, educator and composer, whose musical journey began at the age of ten, when she first heard the sound of the plucked zither and has dedicated her life to this rare instrument.
Arabic Melodies Celebrating BBC Arabic's 77th Anniversary: With classical Arabic music performed live by Oxford Maqam, a middle eastern music ensemble and Syrian Kanun player Maya Youssef, BBC Arabic is taking a journey into the richness of Arabic music from the 1920s to the 1950s. Featuring music from various Arab countries including Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Yemen, Algeria, Lebanon and Egypt. Taking place on 31 January, 2015 at the BBC Radio Theatre, Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London W1A 1AA. Anyone can attend but you must register in advance.