Al-Bustan Takht Ensemble formed in 2011 as an initiative of Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, under the direction of Music Director Hanna Khoury. The Ensemble includes virtuoso musicians immersed in classical Arab music. All renowned musicians in their own right, three members of the ensemble are recipients of the prestigious Pew Fellowship in the Arts for their exemplary talent. Their individual experience crosses decades and continents, and includes touring and recording with prominent orchestras from both Western and Arab musical traditions as well as collaborating with folk and pop legends, from Marcel Khalife and Fairouz to Sting and Shakira. Representing the finest practitioners and scholars of both Western and Arab musical tradition, the Ensemble collaborates with renowned guest artists, performing in Al-Bustan Music Concert Series and leading educational activities in the community and Al-Bustan Digital Education.
Hanna Khoury: Music Director/Violin
Al-Bustan’s Music Program is directed by Hanna Khoury. He is a recipient of the 2010 Pew Fellowship in the Arts, which is awarded each year to 12 Philadelphia artists who are of exemplary talent.
Khoury is a violinist trained in the classical traditions of Arab and Western music. While music director of the Arabesque Music Ensemble, Khoury led nationwide tours performing classical Arab music in major venues and universities, and recorded two traditional Arab music albums: Al-Fursan Al-Talatha and The Songs of Sheikh Sayyed Darweesh: Soul of People. He has collaborated and performed with major artists including Lebanese superstar Fairuz, Iraqi singer Kazem Al-Saher, Grammy winner Youssou N’Dour, Algerian singer Cheb Khaled, and Tony Award winner Mandy Patinkin. In addition, Khoury can be heard on several pop songs including Grammy nominated song Beautiful Liar (featuring Beyoncé and Shakira) and Love and Compassion (featuring Paula Cole and Kazem Al Saher). He recorded strings for Shakira’s Grammy performance of Hips Don’t Lie. Khoury collaborated with musician/composer Kareem Roustom on multiple projects, including recording strings for award-winning films Amreeka, Budrus, Encounter Point, and the PBS documentary Mosque in Morgan Town, in addition to releasing an Arabic jazz album with Al-Zafeer Ensemble. A recipient of the America-Israel Scholarship and Qattan Foundation Award, Khoury graduated magna cum-laude with departmental honors from UCLA with Bachelors in Economics and Music Performance, and obtained his Master’s Degree in Music from Temple University.
Khoury began teaching music with Al-Bustan in Spring 2009: first leading a small ensemble for a performance in May 2009, teaching music at Al-Bustan Camp 2009 and 2010, and since January 2010 as Director of Al-Bustan’s Music Program and Music Director of the community ensemble, Philadelphia Arab Music Ensemble.
Hafez Kotain: Percussion
Hafez 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 is a recipient of the 2013 Pew Fellowship in the Arts, which is awarded each year to 12 Philadelphia artists who are of exemplary talent. Kotain 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. Throughout the year Kotain teaches with Al-Bustan in various school and community-based programs, including a summer camp for youth and a weekly course in percussion at the University of Pennsylvania.
Kinan Abou-afach: Cello
Kinan Abou-afach is a Syrian-born cellist and composer. He is a recipient of the 2013 Pew Fellowship in the Arts, which is awarded each year to 12 Philadelphia artists who are of exemplary talent. Abou-afach 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. Abou-afach is also an active composer, writing music 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. Most recently he composed “Roads to Damascus,” a 52-minute composition commissioned by Al-Bustan and premiered in February 2013 at the Arab Music Concert Series in Philadelphia. More about Abou-afach on his website.
Hicham Chami: Qanun
Hicham Chami is a Moroccan-born qanun performer. He graduated from the National Conservatory of Music and Dance in Rabat, Morocco, with diplomas in qanun performance/instruction and Western music theory. After earning his business school degree in Casablanca, he relocated to Chicago and completed his MBA at DePaul University’s Kellstadt School of Business. Chami founded and led the Arabesque Music Ensemble which toured the U.S. and Canada and produced two critically-acclaimed CDs: Al-Fursan Al-Talatha and The Songs of Sheikh Sayyed Darweesh: Soul of a People. He is currently a research fellow in the School of Music at the University of Florida, concurrently enrolled in the Islamic Studies PhD program at Columbia University.