We are happy to invite you to the symposium-workshop Archiving Syrian Music and Beyond, 23 & 24 November 2023 at the University of Amsterdam, bringing together experts, scholars, and practitioners to delve into the preservation and exploration of Syrian musical heritage. Syrian traditional music is endangered and in diaspora, due to the ongoing civil war, oppression and Westernization. In this symposium, we will explore where and how this music is preserved outside of Syria in various kinds of conventional and non-conventional archives. We will discuss how this music is currently "stored" in various “places”, such as private and institutional archives and collections, record shops, and on the internet. We are delighted that experts from Beirut, London, Würzburg, Utrecht and Amsterdam are able to come to this symposium to present case studies, archival practices and historical studies, and play and perform music.
We are delighted to invite you to the symposium-workshop Archiving Syrian Music and Beyond, 23 & 24 November 2023 at the University of Amsterdam, bringing together experts, scholars, and practitioners to delve into the preservation and exploration of Syrian musical heritage.
Syrian traditional music is endangered and in diaspora, due to the ongoing civil war, oppression and Westernization. In this symposium, we will explore where and how this music is preserved outside of Syria in various kinds of conventional and non-conventional archives. Syrian music encompasses various genres, styles, traditions and regional varieties – Arabic, Kurdish, Jewish, Sufi, Aleppine, etc. – formed by various influences. Melodies travelled all over the Mediterranean, acquiring diverse musical identities. And for already more than a century, audio(-visual) technologies and globalization contributed to even more musical travelling. We will discuss how this music is currently "stored" in various “places”, such as private and institutional archives, collections, and record shops, on various continents, on the internet, and in the minds, bodies, instruments and social interactions of musicians, as audio(-visual) recordings, written accounts, traditions, memories and living practices. We are delighted that experts from Beirut, London, Würzburg, Utrecht and Amsterdam are able to come to this symposium to present case studies, archival practices and historical studies, and play and perform music, contributing to the safeguarding of Syrian musical heritage.
Keynote speaker is Clara Wenz, ethnomusicologist at the University of Würzburg specialized in music from the Middle-East and its entanglement with recent histories of national conflict, displacement and migration. She will discuss the crowd-sourced citizen archives on Youtube that played a pivotal role during the 2011 Syrian uprising and its violent aftermath, containing not only documentation of war crimes and human rights violations, but also an enormous amount of music expressing resistance to the Assad regime, celebrating resilience and mourning victims. More than a decade later, this audio-visual archive is at risk of being lost, as user accounts and channels are being deleted either by their private users or by YouTube itself.
The work of the Foundation for Arab Music Archiving & Research AMAR in Lebanon will be presented by its vice-president Fadi Yeni Turk. AMAR safeguards 13.000 recordings with traditional Arab music from the 1903-1930s, publishes CDs and podcasts, organizes events and has an extensive, informative website, focusing on forgotten voices and unknown heritage.
Diran Mardirian will discuss the collection of rare records with Arabic music from the 1950s and 1960s of his record shop Chico Records – the oldest record shop in Beirut, established in 1964 by his father. It may seem strange to think of a shop as an archive, but Chico Records, and marketplace and user-generated internet platform Discogs on which Chico offers its collection internationally, are indeed preserving important musical heritage.
Hazem Jamjoum discussed the early record industry and the production of "Arabic music” as a concept and a commodity, based on his doctoral research in Philosophy in History and Middle Eastern Studies at NYU, in a highly engaging lecture in the Colloquium Musicology series in June 2023. We are happy that he will visit Amsterdam again to discuss his work in the British Library as the curator of early 20th century audio recordings related to Arab and Gulf history.
Western archives may contain hidden treasures of traditional Syrian music. Maksim Abdul Latif’s discovery of some very rare, exceptional recordings of old masters of traditional Syrian music in the UvA Jaap Kunst audio collection fed into our subsequent NWO Hestia research project on archiving Syrian music, "From Archive to Network”, exploring new findings and traces of past music practices in various parts of the world and on the internet. During the late 1950s to early 1970s, vinyl record companies thrived in Syria, particularly in Aleppo, the capital of the Arabic music world. Despite this flourishing era, there is an absence of written, documented, or preserved records from these companies. Maksim will share his findings, shedding light on this overlooked musical heritage.
Dramaturge and author Willem Bruls will discuss the projects on Aleppine music he developed in the Netherlands. In 2002, he and Walter Slosse made a series of six radio documentaries on the music of Aleppo for the Dutch national radio VPRO. Recently, Willem Bruls wrote a book on the music of Aleppo, Een zucht van Aleppo (2023), describing its history and the lively amalgamations of musical styles and cultures he encountered there in 2000, but also the contrast he found in 2021, after the war. For 2024, he develops a project with the choir Capella Amsterdam on the musical traditions of Aleppo.
A small concert featuring a Syrian Oud player, Talal Fayad, and a Syrian singer based in the Netherlands, Mira, will showcase traditional Syrian music, accompanied by drinks.
With ample opportunity for discussion, we hope to engage all participants and stimulate fruitful interactions. We are looking forward to meet you!
This workshop is part of the project From archive to network: Syrian music in the Jaap Kunst audio collection and beyond (with project number VidW.1154.20.048) of the research programme NWO Hestia: Impulse for refugees in science, which is (partly) financed by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) and hosted by the University of Amsterdam.
For updates, titles, abstracts and bios, see https://www.uva.nl/en/profile/l/a/m.a.latif/m.a.latif.html
Programme may be subject to change.
Thursday 23 November 2023
11:00 room 1.01A
Fadi Yeni Turk about the non-profit organization AMAR, that aims to safeguard and disseminate the musical heritage of the Arab world
12:00 room 1.01A
Diran Mardirian about Chico Records, the oldest record shop in Beirut:
Small Shop Large Impact – 60 Years of Thriving and Surviving in Beirut
13:00 room 1.01A
Hazem Jamjoum about his work with the audio collection at the British Library
14:00 Lunch break
15:30 — 17:00 room 3.01
Keynote Lecture by dr. Clara Wenz
Curating Syrian (Protest–)Music on YouTube: A Case Study from Bustan al-Qasr
17:00 – 18:00 room 3.01
Drinks and concert with Syrian traditional music
Friday 24 November 2023
10:00 (after registration)
Visit Jaap Kunst audio collection
12:00 lunch break
13:00 Room 3.01
Presentation by Willem Bruls about his new book on the music in Aleppo
14:00 Room 3.01
Presentation by Maksim Abdul Latif and dr. Hannah Bosma about the NWO Hestia project “Lost and Found, Tracing Aleppo’s Records Companies in the 1960s."
15:30 – 17:00 Room 3.01
Forum with all speakers