30.01.2018 - UNESCO Office in Beirut

Displaced Syrian Music School Students End of Year Concert in Beirut

Syrian music heritage is an endangered form of expression that is currently at risk and requires experts to pass it onto the younger generations. One of the ways that the civil society in Lebanon is helping displaced Syrian communities cope with their new environment, is by providing musical training opportunities. These opportunities present a safe outlet for displaced Syrian youth where they learn creative self-expression, knowledge, communication and life skills, and English.

In the framework of its “Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Cultural Heritage” project funded by the European Union, UNESCO collaborated with Action for Hope to form The Music School. Skilled professional musicians and ensembles are trained and practice regularly Syrian traditional music. The initiative targeted youth from displaced Syrian communities in Lebanon in the Beqaa and Beirut.

Action for Hope Music School aims at discovering, training and presenting music talents among displaced Syrian communities in Lebanon. It also aims at preserving the rich and diverse Syrian musical heritage with its roots and extensions in other parts of the Mashreq countries, through study and practice. Action for Hope Music School started as a pilot program in August 2015 before it was launched in March 2016.

The Music School accepts talented students who go through rigorous screening and auditioning process supervised by Fawaz Baker, the school’s artistic supervisor. The students are then placed in two different levels. The program is designed to teach both theory and practice; theoretical information about instruments, music notes and music composing. The students are also allowed to practice the different instruments but they have to right to specialize in only one instrument. The students can only enroll in the school program once permission and parental consent has been acquired.

In September and December of 2017, the students participated in two final workshops to prepare for the graduation and end of year concerts. During these two workshops, the final music arrangements for the tracks was led by the artistic supervisor, the choice of ensembles who will play each track was decided, and final rehearsals; the students were also prepared for on stage performance and movement.

On December 10, the band “Zhourat”, composed of 6 female graduates was presented to an audience at Mansion, an old house in Zoukak El Blat in Beirust which hosts cultural events. This graduation ceremony was attended by around 70 people. The female graduates made their debut after completing two years’ study at the Music School. The program included songs from the rich Syrian, Lebanese, and Egyptian musical heritage. The band played different instruments such Bozuq, Oud, Tabla, Accordion and Riq.

On December 17, Level 1 students had their end of year concert at Beryte theatre in Beirut. The concert was titled “Mal El Hawa” and it was attended by the students’ parents and audience from Beirut. Level 1 students are students between the ages of 10 and 18, who have completed their first year of training and studying music history and theory, general cultural appreciation, English language and life skills. During their first year, the students were given the opportunity to choose their preferred instrument among Oud, Bozuq, Accordion, Ney, Saxophone, Table and Riq. In addition, they learned more than 30 songs and instrumental pieces from the rich Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi and Egyptian musical heritage. During the concert, some of the most famous Arabic Levantine songs were performed such as “Aal Rozana” and “Aal Lala”. The maqams that were performed were Hijaz, Siba and Ajam.

The school follows a model of a 3-semester educational programme in one year, divided into regular weekly sessions of 6 to 8 hours, thus allowing students who go to regular schools to attend both programmes. The teaching process is based on carefully selected music teachers from different nationalities who are living in Lebanon. The students are also exposed to the experience of some visiting musicians who specialize in different instruments.

It is hoped that this form of regular music study and training will lead to enrolling students in music institutes so that they can pursue a higher level of training. A further study phase for distinguished students is being designed for implementation in the future.

The “Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Cultural Heritage” project, a pioneering initiative funded by the European Union with the support of the Flemish Government and Austria in partnership with ICCROM and ICOMOS. The project focuses on building technical capacities of Syrian experts and institutions and strengthening local, regional and international coordination to develop efficient responses.

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