As the newest member of the Al-Bustan team, I was so excited to attend the Roads to Damascus concert! I watched the audience react as thick, coiled strands swirled along the base of the paintings projected overhead, creating shapes and hues that expertly flowed together. Soon domes, human forms within shadows, and landscapes became real.
After sitting in on a rehearsal, I knew this would be superb music and visual art performance. And, indeed it was! The composer Kinan Abou-afach’s expert timing for each musician truly paid off because the music really was quite wonderful.
Renowned visual artist Kevork Mourad in partnership with Kinan combined art and music to depict the tragedy of Syria as well as the beauty of the region during Al-Bustan’s Arab Music Concert Series world premiere of Roads to Damascus.Also, this was one unique performance featuring two of Philadelphia’s finest jazz musicians Barry James on keyboards and David Brodie on bass. Roads to Damascus is a very stimulating and entirely recommendable pairing of Arab music, jazz, and visual art.
Both Kinan and Kevork are Syrian born and both included much of their own feelings and emotions about their histories into the performance. In talking with audience members after the show, I discovered they, too, felt the raw depiction of this region through the music and art. Kevork explained that he “holds up a mirror to my present, but pays homage to the past.” His work does not have a specific style, he added but he “values the line: lines are precise, direct and concrete.”
He began his work, with his signature black line and continued to build upon the initial black line to create multiple images in concert with the dramatic sounds of the drums, cello, violin, bass, and piano. Although many of his scenes featured heroic equestrians on magnificent horses or refugees fleeing the chaos, he also created a sense of lightness and hope as his images and the musicians’ splendid performances unfolded the stories of strength and resilience of the people of this region.