An Evening in the Syrian Residence-Gary Tischler
Most of the concerts in the Embassy Series are offered at the embassies themselves. When the venue moves, as it does sometimes, to the ambassadorial residences, a shift occurs in the atmosphere. That’s certainly what happened at the recent concert of music by Kinan Azmeh at the residence of Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha.
You could simply say the music was splendid, the host was gracious and the food was abundant and end the story right there. But something special was going on, there was an atmosphere of convivial intimacy, of cultural diversity that gave the gathering a unique quality.
The artists--Kinan Azmeh, accompanied by Dinuk Wijeratne on piano--had a lot to do with that. Juilliard trained and Syrian born, Azmeh in his daily life traverses at least two worlds, traveling back and forth from Damascus to New York. The music does something similar, the compositions, most of them by Azmeh and Wijeratne, wind their way through Western and Middle Eastern themes and feelings, darting between contemporary classical and jazz moves, always bringing along the influences of the cultural ferment of the artist’s homelands. (Wijeratne is from Sri Lanka, Azmeh is Syrian).
Azmeh, who l could pass for a casual wear male model, said as much. “Yes, yes, that’s it exactly,” he said after the concert. “It’s going back and forth among all three, the jazz, the classical, the Arabic, they lead into each other.“ To Azmeh, music is like a gate that you go through and come out with new sounds, richer music.
The experience of living here, and then there at home, coming from there and then being here finds its way into the music, none more so than in a piece called “Airport” which he called a tribute to all visitors who have spent some time at the back of the airport reserved for those who require further scrutiny. Azmeh, who has achieved considerable international recognition, enough to be called a rising star in the world of international music, participated in last year’s “Arabesque” festival at the Kennedy Center.Listening to his sounds, music and composition, you can hear the distant sound of the future, where musical influences have already been exchanged, digested, and rewoven from continent to continent, culture to culture.
Ambassador Moustapha, a man educated in the sciences, but with a keen interest in Western classical musical, in fact, in all kinds of music, brought his enthusiasm, his magnetism, and story-telling gifts to the occasion, including tales of sleeping on the floor of Azmeh’s rooms in London on a visit.
The ambassador took on a number of roles before, during and after the concert, as gracious host and greeter, as explainer and story-teller, and finally, the role of doting and proud father, cradling his seven-month son Saree, who was fussed over by just about all the attendees. The Ambassador and his wife Rafif ay-Sayed Moustapha also have a daughter, Sidra.