Kinan Abou-afach is an acclaimed cellist, oud player, composer, and recipient of the prestigious Pew Fellowship in 2013. The Syrian-born musician began his musical studies at the age of seven studying at the Arabic Institute of Music in Damascus, where he eventually joined the National Syrian Symphony Orchestra and performed with the Middle Eastern Ensemble. He holds a Bachelor’s Degrees in cello and oud performance from the Higher Institute of Music where he Studied the cello repertoire with Fayez Zahril-Din, Rasi Abdullaiev, and Valery Volkov, and a Master’s Degree in Cello Performance from DePaul University School of Music where he studied with Stephen Balderston.
As a composer, described as “a Journey in Sound” and “Phenomenal”, Abou-afach crafts music that is saturated with unique scales, rhythmic grooves, and improvisation-esque progressions, keeping with some traditions while sounding contemporary. He works on creating a sound that’s based loosely on the Arabic modal traditions known as maqam, while using elements from the western traditions (Classical, Jazz, Electronic, Musique concrète). He has composed for concerts, as well as film, live theater, and live visual art. Notable commissions by Live Connections for Grammy award-winner Jason Vieaux; for Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture: “of Roads and Homes”, “Displaced”, “Roads to Damascus”; for Grammy award-winners the Crossing Choir “Of Nights and Solace -2015”; Other works: “The Long Night” film directed by Hatem Ali; for Windy Clinard Dance Theater “Jondo Portraits”, and for a 2014 film “Maskoon – Haunted” by Liwaa Yazigi. Other recent works includes: “Fiction” for Oboe, Clarinet, Violin, Viola, Double bass, and Electronic Tape; “Exodus” for Brass Sextet, and “Speak – for Orchestra” which was premiered with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra.
Abou-afach has performed as a soloist and chamber musician throughout the Middle East, Asia, Europe and North America. With musicians and ensembles such as the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Youssou N’dour, Concertante de Chicago, Chicago Children Choir and the Ducati Piano trio, performing in many of the United States prestigious halls. He can also be heard on many recordings by Las Guitarras de España, the Silk Road Project, The Edwards Hospital Healing Art Program and Anne Harris to name a few.
Throughout his musical career, Kinan had the privilege to play under conductors like: Solhi Al-Wady, Daniel Barenboim, Cliff Colnot, Christopher Seaman, Roberto Abbado, Sir Andrew Davis, Pinchas Zuckerman, and soloists like Jason Vieaux, Yo Yo Ma, Alex Klein and Larry Combs.
Abou-afach has recently re-launched his own ensemble Kinan Abou-afach & friends, with a project titled A Letter from Syria; A full length concert performance of original music saturated with unique scales, improvisation, and rhythmic grooves, all intermingled with freely constructed jazz. The pieces within the show are rooted in Abou-afach’s recollections of his homeland Syria before the conflict, expressed through the Middle-Eastern-influenced modes and the rich harmonies of Jazz. In this blending of temporal and aesthetics styles, this music performance looks to the future while paying homage to the past. (Listen on Youtube).