Taraf Syriana, as their name suggests, perform Syrian and Romani folk music - featuring a lineup that includes both legends of Romani folk music, Sergiu Popa (accordion) and Dan Armeanca (vocals/guitar), as well as graduates from some of the top music conservatories in Syria and Europe: Naeem Shanwar (qanun), Omar Abou Afach (viola) and Noémy Braun (cello).
“We were rehearsing when a mortar struck the music conservatory complex in Damascus in 2014,” remembers violist Omar Abou Afach, who performed both violin and viola with Syria’s National Orchestra from 1993-2015. The attack caused numerous casualties at the arts centre. “After the bombing stopped we were sure that no one would attend that evening’s concert at the Opera House, just 100 metres away, but that night the hall was full. Even during wartime, people came to every cultural event. I think it was the only place where people could get a breath of normal life.”
Omar Abou Afach has since immigrated to Montréal, and is part of an extraordinary ensemble called Taraf Syriana, an ensemble of conservatory trained virtuosi which also includes Naeem Shanwar (qanun, and former music professor at the Universoty of Homs), Noémy Braun (cello) and Sergiu Popa (accordionist from one of Europe’s great Romani musical dynasties).
The group is dedicated to the folk music of Syria and its neighbours. “In Aleppo, Damascus and other cities, you can hear this diversity in music, on the streets and on the radio,” recalls Abou Afach, “and that includes Arabic, Kurdish, Syriac, Armenian, Iraqi, Turkish and Romani music.”
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#15 on the Transglobal World Music Chart