Maya Youssef – Contemporary Kanun Player

Maya Youssef, a contemporary musician whose instrument of choice is the “Kanun” pronounced (Kanoon) performed solo at St. Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, London on October 25th 2014 sharing her musical talent and the versatility of her beautiful instrument.

Maya Youssef at St. Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, London, UK

Maya Youssef at St. Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, London, UK

The Kanun: A very brief summary

The Kanoon is a plucked zither instrument played throughout the Middle East, Central Asia and South Eastern Europe. The total number of strings and tuning vary slightly from one region to another, as does the music played. However, regardless of region, there are three stings to a note.

The Artist and Performance

Maya’s performance at St. Ethelburga’s was very moving. She played various classical pieces that are very well known throughout the Arab world including, but not limited to, compositions by Fareed Al-Atrash and Mohammad Abdel Wahab; both revered composers in the Arab world.

Maya has not only been extremely successful in the mastery of a complicated classical instrument that is historically played predominantly by the male gender (I can’t quite tell you why this is the case), she has also brought the instrument to a set of very new platforms.

To paraphrase her anecdote: While learning this complicated instrument at nine years of age, Maya was continuously told how not to play it and what not to do. Being nine, she already was ready to challenge these rules by composing a piece of her own strategically putting in exactly what she shouldn’t! For example, going past the bridge of the instrument or playing the strings as though she were playing a harp.

In adulthood, she has clearly taken this mindset much further by composing pieces that blend different cultures and instruments together in ways that audiences have not experienced.

I’ll let the music do the talking!

One example is playing Vivaldi’s “Winter” with the Syrian National Orchestra

Another is composing a Flamenco piece which I had heard her play solo at St. Ethelburga’s but seen here beautifully accompanied by Myrddin Solea on guitar.

Doing Good through Music

Maya is raising funds for a cause by the name “Music 4 Syrian Refugees” Funds raised will go towards putting smiles back on the faces and in the hearts of children who desperately need to remember what it is to be a child.

To learn more and to contribute what you can please visit her donation page here –> Music 4 Syrian Refugee Children 

She also uses her talents to contribute to a London based theatre company by the name “Oily Cart”. The theatre’s mission is to create interactive theatrical experiences for children with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities as well as children on the Autism spectrum.

Please click here to learn more –> Oily Cart

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