Musicians Kotain and Abou-afach Win Pew Fellowship

Posted On:
18 June, 2013

We are pleased to announce that Hafez El Ali Kotain, Al-Bustan Resident Percussionist, and Kinan Abou-Afach, Al-Bustan Resident Cellist, have both received a 2013 Pew Fellowship in the Arts. Each year the Pew selects 12 artists in the greater Philadelphia area who are of exemplary talent.


Alf mabrouk (congratulations) to Kinan and Hafez for a well-deserved award! We are excited to continue our partnership with them in teaching and presenting even more Arab music in the coming years.


Hafez El Ali Kotain, an accomplished master percussionist, is fluent in both Arab and Latin rhythms — a fluency he honed in his native countries of Syria and Venezuela. He began studying the doumbek in Syria at the age of seven, first performed on stage at age nine, and went on to study with master Syrian percussionist Hady Jazan, winning the national percussion competitions in Syria for five consecutive years. In Venezuela he studied percussion at the TMV Institute for Music in Valencia, where he also taught a variety of percussion styles blending Arab and Latino music to youth. Kotain has performed with Lebanese composer/musician Marcel Khalife and Al Mayadine Ensemble in their latest US and Canada tour for “Fall of the Moon: An Homage to the Poet Mahmoud Darwish.” He has also toured with Syrian singer George Wassouf in Canada and the US, and has performed in Philadelphia with acclaimed artist Sting and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Kotain has worked with Al-Bustan for over three years as a performer and teacher in various school and community-based programs. (Photo Credit: Langdon Photography)


Kinan Abou-afach is a Syrian-born cellist and composer. He began his musical studies at the age of seven and received his first degree in cello and oud performance in the music preparatory program of the Arabic Institute of Music in Damascus. He completed a Bachelors degree in cello performance with a minor in oud performance from the Higher Institute of Music in Damascus. He has performed as a soloist with various orchestras in the Arab region and participated in master classes with Francoise Baduell, Federico Romano, Yo-Yo Ma, and members of Alban Berg Quartet. Abou-afach moved to Chicago in 2000 to obtain his master’s degree at the DePaul University School of Music. He studied under Stephen Balderston, assistant principal of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s cello section, and was a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago for several years. As a soloist and chamber musician Abou-Afach has performed in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, France, Germany and Japan. He is currently a performer with Al-Bustan’s resident ensemble based in Philadelphia. Other than performance, Abou-afach is an active composer, writing music that is influenced by Eastern and Western traditions. Some of his film scores include original soundtracks “The Long Night” by Hatem Ali; “Where We Stood” by Blake Beckstrom; and for the Theater/Dance “Jondo Portraits” by choreographer Wendy Clinard. Examples of Abou-afach’s compositions can be heard on his website. (Photo Credit: Danielle Nowak)