Roads to Damascus: A Mesmerizing Visual and Aural Journey

Posted On:
15 March, 2013
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February 23, 2013

As part of Al-Bustan’s Arab Music Concert Series, Roads to Damascus featured the world premiere of a mesmerizing music and visual art performance created by Kevork Mourad, visual artist based in NYC, and Kinan Abou-afach, composer/musician based in Philadelphia. They collaborated to tell of their memories of and aspirations for Damascus. They see the city as a source of harmony and color, a place of permanence through change, a home for the wise and for the young, a symbol of resilience.

The evening opened with three beautiful compositions by Kinan Abou-afch, Six Eight, Takween/Genesis, and Speak, performed by members of Al-Bustan’s resident ensemble: Kinan Abou-afach on cello, Hanna Khoury on vioilin, Hafez El Ali Kotain on percussion, along with guest musicians David Brody on bass and Barry Sames on piano. Then followed the featured piece, Roads to Damascus, a continuous 52-minute composition and spontaneous painting divided into seven movements, each reflecting an aspect of Damascus’ long, complex history. The trajectory of themes, from creation, growth, and joy to destruction, death, and migration, ending with hope, resilience, and rebirth, were powerfully and lyrically presented.
Photos by Danielle Nowak:


Trinity Center Hall was filled with an audience completely enthralled by the experience, “a mesmerizing visual and aural journey” as one person noted. More from the audience…

It was an absolutely incredible experience. The combination of music and art was beautifully pioneered. – Estefania

The music and art was amazing and engaging. A unique experience I won’t forget. – Maddie

This event was incredible, I was moved to tears. Shukran! – Jamal

The visual artist and musicians combined sound and live performance drawing that blew my mind: it was like a movie!… I hadn’t been able to see any hope in what has been happening in Damascus lately, but was happy to be left with an optimistic ending to the concert. – Colleen

The event was absolutely beautiful and moving. The different styles of music and art were unlike anything I’ve ever seen or heard before…The concert made me want to learn more about Arab culture and history. It seems like such a rich culture and so interesting, and I don’t know much about it. – Zoe

I came for the music, but am now very inspired to learn more about Syria. -Mitchell

Without words, Kevork and Kinan were talking to me.

In addition, two days before the concert, Abou-afach and Mourad led a demonstration for a group of students at Northeast High School. CLICK HERE and you can learn more about their work with the youth and see photos and video clip of students making drawings in response to improvisations by Abou-afach on the cello.

This program was made possible with support from:
The Violet Jabara Charitable Trust, The Samuel S. Fels Fund, Raseef22, and University of Pennsylvania’s Middle East Center and Greenfield Intercultural Center