Artist Spotlight: Syrian Musician Kinan Idnawi

“Music is not just what I do, it is my life.”

Celebrated Syrian musician Kinan Idnawi has been studying music since the age of 7, learning to play the oud from two unlikely, but convenient teachers…his brothers. From amateur teachings rose an incredible talent as Kinan graduated from the High Music Institute in Damascus, Syria in 2008 and subsequently toured the world with several prestigious ensembles (Qatar Philharmonic, Al-Mayadeen Ensemble), in world-renowned venues like Kennedy Center in Washington DC, Theater des Champs-Elysees in Paris, La Scala in Milan, and Teatro Massimo in Palermo. And, in 2009, he won first place in the International Oud Competition in Beirut, Lebanon.

The oud is one of the oldest stringed instruments in the world, often considered to be “the king of instruments” and the most central in the Middle Eastern music tradition. It has a long and rich history; one that stretches back many, many centuries and extends beyond the Middle-Eastern world from which it originates. The oud is a pear-shaped stringed instrument, having existed in its “modern” form for well over five hundred years.

Welcome, to the 2015 American Folk Festival musical family!
We are so excited to represent music and dance traditions the audience has never seen it before in Maine! We’ll perform different types of dances and folk music from Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, which will give us the chance to introduce different rhythms, dances, songs, and kind of clothes for men and women.

Tell us about your instrument, the oud.
I had the chance to perform in many different countries around the world and I’ve played an instrument called “oud.” which is like a lute and very close to a guitar. The oud is a very important instrument in the traditional Syrian ensemble as the oud player must be very knowledgeable and have strong knowledge of rhythms, etc. I grew up playing oud and never thought that I will do anything else…and I continue working on what I started a long time ago.

And, it’s not all about the instrument, right? It’s also about the musician…
I was born in Syria into a musical family. I learned traditional music while I was in Syria and I was studying the music as a professional musician in a conservatory there. Currently I live in Boston and I perform some of my music projects around the states. Music is all that I do…since I was kid  I love the music and never thought I will do anything else besides it—a full time musician.

Is this your first time at the American Folk Festival or are you a seasoned veteran?
Last year I came to Maine and I had the opportunity to perform in an Egyptian project as well as meet and watch amazing music traditions from many countries.

I am looking forward to have another chance to perform in the Folk Festival, to share amazing music, and to have the opportunity to see other folk musicians coming to perform from all around the world.