Kinan Abou-Afach | Composer / Cello
Abou-afach is a Syrian-born cellist, oud player, composer, and recipient of the prestigious 2013 Pew Fellowship in the Arts. He began his musical studies at the age of seven and completed his Bachelors degree in cello performance with a minor in oud performance from the Higher Institute of Music in Damascus. He 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 has been a member of Al-Bustan Ensemble since 2011. As a composer, he crafts music that is saturated with unique scales, rhythmic grooves, and improvisation-esque progressions. Abou-afach’s latest commision by Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture is titled Of Roads and Homes. He took inspiration for his composition from the stories of the 12 profiled individuals and their families.
Hafez Kotain | Percussion
Kotain 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 prestigious 2013 Pew Fellowship in the Arts. 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. Kotain performed with Marcel Khalife and Al-Mayadine Ensemble in their US and Canada tour for Fall of the Moon: An Homage to the Poet Mahmoud Darwish. He also toured with Syrian singer George Wassouf in Canada and the US, and performed in Philadelphia with acclaimed artist Sting and the Philadelphia Orchestra. As Percussion Director, Kotain teaches with Al-Bustan throughout the year at schools and in the community. He also teaches a course at the University of Pennsylvania.
Issam Rafea | Oud
Winner of the 2010 “Best Composer Award” in Dubai International Film Festival (Muhr Arab) in the film “Matar Ayloul,” (September Rain), Rafea was the Chair of the Arabic Music Department at High Institute of Music in Damascus and the principal conductor of Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music from 2003 to 2013. While in Syria, Rafea was a composer and arranger for TV and theater since the early ‘90s. Rafea collaborates internationally with groups like “Gorillaz” arranging five works that were performed by the Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music. It was recorded in Damascus Opera house. One piece was selected to be in “Gorillaz” album “Plastic Beach” in 2009. The project was concluded with an international tour in UK, Europe, Lebanon, Syria, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia. Rafea is co-founder and oudist for the contemporary Arabic music group Hewar, which has performed in UAE, Egypt, Germany, UK, France, Japan, and USA. Rafea also founded Twais Quartet, a group that performs both original compositions by Rafea and traditional Arabic music works.