Syrian Classical Music

Many years ago there was a store in Harvard Square that specialized in Middle-Eastern music. I went in there pretty frequently; the music is close enough to Hindustani tradition that I felt a great aesthetic consanguinity, but different enough that I never knew what was going to happen. I got to know the proprietors casually, and they began recommending items to me when I dropped in.

One day the primary storekeeper pulled out a CD and said, “You must hear this!” It was “Sacred and Profane Songs of Syria,” a recording of Sabri Moudallal, the principal muezzin of the Great Mosque at Aleppo, Syria. I was riveted. Amazing breath control, vocal projection that suggested a lifetime of sending sound over long distances…and a level of passion that I’d rarely heard anywhere. So I bought the record, and I bought a subsequent recording, “The Aleppian Music Room” a couple of years later.

Here’s a page with a bio and a photograph.

Moudallal was very old at the time of the recordings. I can only imagine what he sounded like as a young man. Every so often over the years I’ve checked YouTube for some of his music… And today?

Enjoy. Although the sound on these uploads is pretty crappy, the music is exquisite. The second piece is especially beautiful. Moudallal has some solo interludes about five minutes in; they tear me to shreds every time. Check out the long embellished phrases that begin at 5:47.

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