Maya Youssef

Maya Youssef

From Syria, speaker, composer and virtuoso of the qanun disseminates peace through the healing power of music.  

One day, aged 9, on her way to the music institute where she was reluctantly studying the violin, the taxi driver was playing a recording of an instrument that blew her mind – it was the qanun. When she told him she was determined to learn it his reply shocked her, but kindled a flame: he told her girls did not play the qanun; it was a man’s instrument played only by men. He laughed at her when she told him she would learn to play it. Now, Damascus born Maya Youssef is hailed as “queen of the qanun”, the 78 stringed Middle Eastern plucked zither. She moved to London under the Arts Council’s “exceptional talent” scheme and has played at the Proms and alongside Damon Albarn. When the war started in Syria, writing music was “no longer a choice” and that was the birth of her highly acclaimed debut album Syrian Dreams (produced by the legendary Joe Boyd). For Maya the act of playing music is the opposite of death; it is a life and hope affirming act. For her, music is a healer and an antidote to what is happening not only in Syria, but in the whole world.

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