Issue No.
176, December 2012 Latest update 9 2014f August 2014, at 4.39 am
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Palestine Youth Orchestra.

A Century of Musical Talent
By Rima Tarazi
It is very difficult to try to introduce readers to a wide range of musical talents across many decades. Due to the large scope of the subject, I will not pretend to cover current musical talents, which are bountiful; I will merely mention those with whom I am familiar.

During the first part of the twentieth century, musical life was beginning to flourish in Palestine. The birth of the Palestinian Broadcasting Station in Jerusalem was an important factor in disseminating music and encouraging musicians to pursue their passion for music. The Palestinian Broadcasting Station attracted local and other talents from the Arab world who regularly performed there, which contributed towards developing a cultured and critical audience.

In the field of Arabic music in Jerusalem, the following names have gained prominence: Wasif Jawhariyyeh, Yahia Saodi, Yacoub Ziadeh, Rohi Khammash (oud) Antone Binyamin, Jamil Iweis, Jamil Rukab (violin) Ibrahim Abdel Al, Mohammad Atiyeh, Artin Santori (qanoun) Tawfik Jawharieh (nay), Basil Sarwa (percussion) Yahia Lababidi, Fahd Najjar, Mary Akkawi, Amer Khaddaj, Riad Bandak, and Raja’ Al Filistinia (voice).

In northern Palestine, mainly in Nazareth and Haifa, there were quite a few prominent musicians, as music was very much part of the cultural landscape. This heritage laid the groundwork for outstanding musical talents of our times. Unfortunately, I am only familiar with a few names of the generation of the first half of the twentieth century, and I hope that others will provide readers with a full anthology of those musicians. Musicians of the older generation who hail from the north include Hikmat Shaheen (oudist and father of Simon Shaheen,) Yusef Al Khil (composer,) whose children Cecil (pianist) and Bishara (composer) have followed in their father’s footsteps. Songwriter Ibrahim Bawarshi is also a name I remember from the old days.

Western classical music, on the other hand, was promoted by a number of foreign music teachers heralding from Italy, France, and England, whose gifted students excelled and eventually became music teachers themselves in various Palestinian schools, which, in turn, helped spread the interest in music on a wide scale. This undoubtedly had a marked impact on the future of music in Palestine. Amongst those who left an important legacy were the Jerusalemites: Augustine Lama (organist, composer, teacher, and music arranger, who dedicated most of his compositions to the Church,) Salvador Arnita (a student of Lama who was also an organist, composer, conductor, choirmaster, and teacher, and who, after 1948, went on to establish the music department at the American University in Beirut), Yusef Batroni (composer, conductor, choirmaster and teacher who was very well-versed in both Arabic and classical music and was amongst the pioneers in the Palestine Broadcasting Station), and Hanna Khatchadourian (later known as Ohan Durian N’ark, pianist, teacher, composer, and conductor who, after 1948, had a long career in conducting in France, Germany, and eventually Armenia). Other piano teachers of the forties and fifties were Nadia Khoury and Mary Salah who moved on to Amman and Italy respectively. Another prominent musical figure was Yousef Khasho, composer, who moved to Amman after 1948, where he opened a music academy.

During the second half of the last century, a few musical talents were able to pursue their music education, eventually contributing towards the revival of the musical scene in Palestine. The value of music was becoming more and more recognised by educators and the public in general which encouraged these musicians to take up music professionally and pass on their skills and love of music to the younger generations.

On the other hand, a number of non-professional outstanding musical talents pursued their passion for music by performing and giving joy to others. Tania Tamari Nasir (singer) has risen to prominence by performing innovative music nationally and outside of Palestine. Edward Said, in addition to being a writer, scholar, and advocate of the Palestinian cause, was also an excellent pianist and music critic. Ramzi Rihan, a physicist, is also a passionate composer. Other talents include the late Dr. Amin Majaj and D. Roger Kayyaleh (violinists) as well as Suhail Saba (violinist) and Diana Nasir (pianist), both of whom left Palestine after 1948 to live abroad.

In 1993, five musicians established the National Conservatory of Music (later named the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music - ESNCM), which was instrumental in discovering and nurturing promising musical talents. The founding musicians were Salwa Tabri (pianist and choirmaster), Amin Nasser (composer, pianist, and choirmaster), Nadia Mikhail Abboushi (pianist and music teacher), Suhail Khoury (composer and clarinettist), and myself (composer and pianist).

In Palestine today there are a number of outstanding musical talents who are performers, teachers, or both.

Amongst those who have achieved renown in the singing field are Reem Talhami, Rim Banna, Camelia Jubran, Dalal Abu Amneh, Mustafa Al Kurd (oudist, singer, and composer), Jamil Al Sayeh, Hani Assad, and Rosan Khoury.

 Well-known talents who are established in their musical fields include: The Trio Jubran (oudists and composers), Khaled Jubran (oudist and composer), Habib Shihadeh (composer), Yousef Hbeisch (percussion), Amer Nakhleh (guitarist), Hisham Abu Jabal (guitarist), Ibrahim Atari (qanunist), Samer Totah (oudist), Ashraf Dabbah (guitarist), Mohammad Fadel (violinist), Ramadan Khattab (double bass player), Yacoub Mohammad(qanunist), Dina Shilleh (pianist), Habib al Deek (oudist), Lamees Odeh (pianist), Wafa Zaghal (oudist), Abdel Salam Sabbah (percussionist), Samer Jaradat (percussionist), Basel Zayed (oudist and singer), Odeh Turjman (composer), Omar Jallad (song-writer and oudist), Yusef Zayed (percussionist), Dia Rishmawi (pianist and composer), Renan Rishmawi (pianist), Mohammad Nijem (clarinettist), Hala Jaber (clarinettist), Joseph Dukmak (saxophonist),Tamer Sahouri (oudist), Nassim Qassis (bouzok and percussion), Hussam Saad (theory teacher), Ramzi Abu Radwan (violist), Salim Zoghbi (pianist), Hania Soudah (choir master), Ghawi Ghawi (choir master), Joseph Hazboun (choir master), Said Murad (composer), Wisam Murad (oudist), Darwish Al Kurd, Garo Demerdjian, Donia Jarrar (pianist and composer), Mohammad Mousa Khalaf (pianist and composer), Michel Rohana (oudist), Luay Bishara (violinist) Nabil Abboud (violinist) and Tyme Khleifi(violinist).

There are also several Arabic music, and jazz ensembles, over and above the ESNCM orchestras, whose members include professional and amateur musicians who are enriching the musical landscape in Palestine.

There are many Palestinian musical talents dispersed all over the world, many of whom have achieved worldwide recognition. I will mention a few well-established names in the field of music with whom I am personally familiar. I offer my deep apologies if I neglect to mention others who should be in this group: Simon Shaheen (oudist, violinist and composer/USA), Patrick Lama (pianist and composer/Paris), Munir Anestas (composer/Paris), John Farah (composer and pianist/Canada), Alexander Suleiman (cellist/Germany, USA), Bassem Al Ashkar (composer/Yemen, Moscow), Habib Kayyaleh (violinist/Switzerland), Laurence Kayyaleh (violinist/Canada, Switzerland), Wissam Boustany (Lebanese-Palestinian flutist and composer/London), Basel Theodory (violinist/Amman), John Bisharat (composer/USA), Charles Bisharart (violinist/USA) Issa Boulos (composer/USA), Ahmad Al Khatib (composer and oudist/Amman, Palestine, Sweden), Ramzi Mikhail (guitarist, Cyprus), Samia Ghannoum (pianist and choirmaster/Amman), Shireen Abu Khader (composer and choirmaster/Amman). Abdel Hamid Hamam(composer/ Jordan), Salim Sahab (conductor/Cairo), Samir Odeh Tamimi(composer), Maron Khoury(flutist/Metropolitan Opera, New York) Jusef Issa (clarinettist/Germany), Benjamin Jaber(principal Horn/San Diego Symphony, USA) Hind Sabanekh (trumpeter/Jordan), Maan Khalife(trombonist/Syria, Germany)Tarek Salhiye(guitar and percussion/Syria) George Assad(violinist and music school director/Jordan),Milan Al Ashhab(violinist/Czech republic), Marie Al Ashhabova(pianist/Czech Republic), Qarma Elias(violinist/Germany), Rawan Kurdi (violinist/Syria), Imiroush Issa (composer and cellist/Canada), Sharbel Dalal(composer and pianist/Canada),Hana Khoury (composer and pianist/USA)

Among the few rising stars of the new generation, some of whom have become established performers, are: Karim Said (pianist/Amman, London), Salim Abboud (pianist/Nazareth, Germany), Dima Bawab (singer/Amman, Paris), Mariam Tamari (singer/Tokyo, Paris), Nabih Boulos (violinist/Amman), Nai Barghouti (flutist/singer, Palestine), Ahmad Eid (double bass player/Palestine), Jiries Boulata (pianist/Palestine), Fadi Deeb (pianist, Nazareth, USA), Bishara Aharouni (pianist/Nazareth), Tamer Abu Ghazaleh(oudist and singer/Amman, Palestine), Hisham Khoury(violinist/Haifa), and Nasser Makhoul (violinist/Jerusalem).

Finally, I would like to apologise, once again, to those whose names were not mentioned in this brief piece, especially the tens of young musicians who are studying abroad and hoping to return home to enrich life in Palestine. I trust that other interested students and researchers will delve deeper into the matter and offer a more comprehensive picture of the musical talents in Palestine.


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