Syrian-Born Professor is Archiving Music of Aleppo

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“My goal is to preserve the music of a city that is dying as we speak.”

Syrian-born Mohamed Alsiadi’s commitment to his heritage goes beyond his position as director of Fordham’s Arabic studies program.

Alsiadi is helping to archive the musical arts of his birthplace of Aleppo, which has been under constant siege since the Syrian war began and has recently faced intense shelling.

“I want to spread this music to the children who are growing up far from their homes, so they can have a piece of their heritage,” he said.

Alsiadi is an accomplished lute player who began collecting music from Allepian radio stations in 2004, fearing even then for the city’s destruction. In 2011, he and composer/pianist Malek Jandali formed the Malek Jandali Trio, along with cellist Laura Metcalf.  With their mixture of expertise, they perform and post on Youtube authentic Allepian Waslah music that refugees can listen to wherever they are across the globe.

“Malek is the composer. I am the researcher. We have a good partnership,” he said. “The music we make is the music that Syrians grew up with and want to hear.”

Alsiadi was raised in Aleppo and received his bachelor’s degree from the Damascus Music Conservatory, specializing in lute performance and conducting. He moved to the United States in 1996 and joined the Fordham faculty in 2010.

In his six years at Fordham, the Arabic Language, Literature, & Culture program has flourished. Alsiadi created an Arabic minor studies program, adding courses such as Music & Nation in the Arab World; Arab Spring in Arabic Literature; and Arab Cinema: History & Cultural Identity.  He founded the Arabic Club, and he and a colleague helped design Fordham’s first Arabic study-abroad program to Morocco.

The Jandali trio is headlining a benefit concert series, “The Voice of the Free Syrian Children.”  The series is designed to bring comfort to Syrian children affected by the war’s atrocities.

“The children are suffering most,” he said. “They’re tortured and killed indiscriminately. Many are orphaned. Others flee and are displaced from their homeland, traumatized, afraid and uncertain of what comes next.”

The trio has taken its music all over the world, giving concerts in Norway, Qatar, England, and Austria. Alsiadi said he is amazed by the global impact the musicians have had.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “We never thought we’d perform on a global level because there is no political agenda behind our project.”

Alsaidi said the trio’s upcoming album, titled Jasmine, holds deep significance for him. In Arab households, jasmine trees are at the center of gatherings. While living with his Sufi family in Aleppo, all family meals and conversations took place near the jasmine tree.

The trio’s next stateside concert is scheduled for Carnegie Hall on Feb. 4.  The group’s proceeds from the albums and concerts support efforts to assist and educate Syrian refugees.

Mary Awad

Watch the Malek Jandali Trio’s music video SoHo.

 

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