Arts Chat: Finding a voice between tradition and contemporary
Presented in partnership with The Arts Center at NYUAD and NYUAD Career Development Center
Artists share approaches to preserving their craft while honoring traditional heritage and creating space for innovation in an ever changing world. Join this diverse and innovative panel: ethnomusicologist, composer and founder of Boom.Diwan, Ghazi Al-Mulaifi; Syrian clarinet player and composer Kinan Azmeh Emirati mixed media artist Afra Al Dhahehi, along with Algerian singer and leader of LEMMA, Souad Asla. This Arts Chat will be moderated by filmmaker, screenwriter, and Visiting Associate Professor of Film and Heritage Studies at NYUAD, Alia Yunis.
Ghazi Faisal Al-Mulaifi, PhD (b. 1977) is an ethnomusicologist who earned his Doctorate of Philosophy in Music in Music from New York University (2015). In addition to working as an assistant professor of music for the Public Authority of Applied Education and Training in Kuwait, Al- Mulaifi is also a Venice Biennale artist, composer, global jazz musician, and ensemble leader. His research interests include: Kuwaiti pearl diving music, global jazz, and heritage production. His current musical efforts include the creation of his ensemble Boom.Diwan; where he and traditional Kuwaiti musicians merge Kuwaiti bahri (sea) rhythms with global jazz traditions for the purpose of creating a new Kuwaiti music.
Hailed as “intensely soulful” and a “virtuoso” by The New York Times and “spellbinding” by The New Yorker, Winner of Opus Klassik award in 2019 clarinetist and composer Kinan Azmeh has gained international recognition for what the CBC has called his “incredibly rich sound” and his distinctive compositional voice across diverse musical genres.
Originally from Damascus, Syria, Kinan Azmeh brings his music to all corners of the world as a soloist, composer and improviser. Notable appearances include the Opera Bastille, Paris; Tchaikovsky Grand Hall, Moscow; Carnegie Hall and the UN General Assembly, New York; the Royal Albert Hall, London; Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires; Philharmonie, Berlin; the Library of Congress, the Kennedy Center, Washington DC; the Mozarteum, Salzburg, Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie; and in his native Syria at the opening concert of the Damascus Opera House.
He has appeared as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, the Dusseldorf Symphony, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the Qatar Philharmonic and the Syrian Symphony Orchestra among others, and has shared the stage with such musical luminaries as Yo-Yo Ma, Daniel Barenboim, Marcel Khalife, John McLaughlin, Francois Rabbath Aynur and Jivan Gasparian. Kinan’s compositions include several works for solo, chamber, and orchestral music, as well as music for film, live illustration, and electronics. His resent works were commissioned by The New York Philharmonic, The Seattle Symphony, The Knights Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Elbphilharmonie, Apple Hill string quartet, Quatuor Voce, Brooklyn Rider, Cello Octet Amsterdam, Aizuri Quartet and Bob Wilson.
An advocate for new music, several concertos were dedicated to him by composers such as Kareem Roustom, Dia Succari, Dinuk Wijeratne, Zaid Jabri, Saad Haddad and Guss Janssen, in addition to a large number of chamber music works.
In addition to his own Arab-Jazz Quartet CityBand and his Hewar trio, he has also been playing with the Silkroad Ensemble since 2012, whose 2017 Grammy Award-winning album “Sing Me Home” features Kinan as a clarinetist and composer.
Kinan Azmeh is a graduate of New York’s Juilliard School as a student of Charles Neidich, and of both the Damascus High institute of Music where he studied with Shukry Sahwki, Nicolay Viovanof and Anatoly Moratof, and Damascus University’s School of Electrical Engineering. Kinan earned his doctorate degree in music from the City University of New York in 2013.
He is currently working on his first opera which is scheduled to premiere in Osnabruck, Germany in June 2022.
Afra Al Dhaheri
Born in 1988 in Abu Dhabi, UAE, Afra Al Dhaheri obtained her MFA from Rhode Island School of Design. Afra Al Dhaheri’s work is rooted in her experiences growing up in Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE – a place of recent and rapid change. Working across various mediums including sculpture, drawing, painting, installation, and printmaking, she draws out notions of time and adaptation, rigor and fragility.
Flagship artist of the new generation of southern Algeria, heir to the Gnawa tradition and its trances that heal the soul, Souad Asla overflows with talent and humanity. Her voice takes us to the gates of the desert, while her music rich in crossbreeding carries a strong identity and a rebellious spirit that lets us glimpse the future. Whether with her personal project Jawal, with the group LEMMA that she has been carrying since 2017, or more recently with “Sahariennes” or “Les Héritières” a creation in tribute to Cheikha Rimitti, she takes the public to each of her concerts in the tireless atmosphere of “Lila” with impressive influence and generosity.