The member of Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra recalls a love of music that began in the Syrian streets, and has since taken him around the world and across musical genres.
Growing up in Damascus near the Sheikh Sufi Mohiuddin ibn Arabi Mosque, MAias Alyamani listened to the Sufi chants and witnessed the rituals of Sufi students – just one part of the musical upbringing of a Syrian violinist who was born in a music-loving family, where his father Ghassan was a drummer.
As a child, he loved to listen to the songs of the vendors as they blended with the scents of perfumes and spices in the old Damascus neighborhoods. It was the start of a journey that would take his life through many stages, until he reached the point where, today, he has become a violinist in the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, a member of Qatar Foundation.
“I’ve performed with the artists from around the world such as Yoyuma, Daniel Barenboim, and Gidon Kremer, , and with some of the giants of Arab music like Fairouz and Sabah Fakhri, but I learned authentic oriental music in the public musical evenings in the old Damascene traditional houses,” Alyamani says.
Music took me into the world of jazz, so I performed alongside jazz legends such as Joe Zawinul and organized concerts at the Lincoln Center under the supervision of Wynton Marsalis
“Music took me into the world of jazz, so I performed alongside jazz legends such as Joe Zawinul and organized concerts at the Lincoln Center under the supervision of Wynton Marsalis.”
Alyamani traveled from Vienna to Qatar in 2008 to join the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, and recalls this period by saying: "At the beginning, we did not know the direction and the destination of the orchestra, but after several months we realized that we are very fortunate that we would be part of this project.
I believe that the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the most important projects in the Qatar, as it has become a global symbol of Qatari culture
"From my experience of 20 years of performing in theaters around the world, I believe that the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the most important projects in the Qatar, as it has become a global symbol of Qatari culture, and today it is rare for a musician around the world to not know about this orchestra, This indicates its importance in the global art space.”
Alyamani’s journey through the world of music included many challenges and difficulties that he sees as being the reason why the culture of orchestra music has not always spread across the Arab world specifically. "The obstacles I faced were the same obstacles that face most Arab musicians, namely the lack of a cultural structure and a clearly defined strategy similar to that of European countries, where – unlike in Arab countries - there is independent and permanent funding for independent technical musical projects.
While my first love will always be Damascus, I am lucky that I spend my life between two of the most beautiful cities in the world, Vienna and Doha.
“But I find nothing more beautiful than being in Qatar. The Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra has been a great supporter of my career, as I performed as a soloist at the United Nations in New York in 2019, and I had successful musical collaborations with Qatari composer Dana Al Fardan in producing many projects, including developing the music for Qatar Airways flights. I was also privileged to participate as an composer at the 2011 Pan Arab Games 2011, and I have arranged music for Qatar’s National Anthem.”
Music and arts are strongly affected by any changes, and this has been the case due to the COVID-19 pandemic that led to performances being cancelled around the world. But Alyamani and his colleagues from the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra were able to help raise the spirits of people within Qatar’s community through concerts that saw them perform from their balconies earlier this year.
"On a personal level,” he adds, “I launched the Maestro channel on social media platforms, which is the first channel specializing in music and arts in the Arabic language, and it has achieved very widespread success since the beginning of the pandemic."
Having lived in both Vienna and Qatar, Alyamani says: "While my first love will always be Damascus, I am lucky that I spend my life between two of the most beautiful cities in the world, Vienna and Doha.
"I introduce myself to my fans on the stage as a Syrian, Austrian, and Qatari artist, because my affiliation with these three countries is not through passport papers, but through my love and appreciation for these three countries in which I have had such an experience in this life.”