Maya Youssef

Hailed as ‘queen of the qanun’, Maya Youssef is a globally renowned, and award-winning qanun player and composer from Syria. In 2012, Maya arrived in the UK under Tier 1 visa and was endorsed by Arts Council of England as an Exceptional Talent. Since then, Maya have pushed the boundaries of the qanun (a 78 stringed plucked zither traditionally played by men) and performed in South Bank, BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, The Barbican, Shakespeare Globe and WOMAD. She collaborated with British cultural Icons like Damon Albarn (Blur/Gorillaz) and recorded for ‘The Beatles & India’ documentary in Abbey Road Studios. Her debut album Syrian Dreams (a prayer for peace) was produced by the esteemed Joe Boyd (Nick Drake) and released by Harmonia Mundi. The album received critical acclaim from the media. “Exquisite…a powerful homage, twists Arabic music cliches”, The Guardian. “An album of skill and power…a dizzying sweep of genres from flamenco to jazz. A transportive cinematic listen” The Musician Magazine (The MU). Syrian Dreams won the German Record Critics’ Award and Songlines Music Award. This led to many UK and international sold-out concerts.  Maya has recently won the PRS Women Make Music Grant and Arts Council Project for the Arts funding towards recording her second album ‘Finding Home’ which will be released March 25th 2022. The launch will be followed by a UK tour combined with refugee community workshops. 

For more information, please visit Maya’s website.

Seminar Three Provocation: 

The qanun, a 78- stringed plucked zither, is often spoken of as the piano of the Arab world. My provocation is a composition titled ‘Lullaby: A Promise of a Rainbow’; a track commissioned by Opera North as part of my new album ‘Finding Home’. In this track, the qanun meets a string quartet from Opera North’s orchestra to create a sonic translation of an image of a Syrian mother I saw last year: the mother was escaping an explosion with her baby very close in her arms, leaving everything behind. As she was escaping, she was singing to her baby. The mother was creating her own bubble of hope around her child. There was the promise of a rainbow.

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