- Nassouh Zaghlouleh
About Abed Azrie
Using synthesized keyboards to create melismatic drones of tremendous power, and an exquisite accompaniment of oriental percussion, kanun (lute) amd ney (wooden flute), Abed Azrié has created an unusual sound derived from “ancient liturgical music of the region tuned to a very low timbre”. His 1990 Nonesuch debut, “Aromates”, has been called “one of the most captivating albums to have been released in the past year…A record which transcends generic categorization and whose reputation has grown steadily”(Stephen Holden, The New York Times).
The dual cultural heritage of the ancient Syrian city, Aleppo, where he was born -- that of a Mesopotamian civilization exposed to Western culture -- had an abiding influence on the poet and musician Abed Azrié. The music within the city walls was almost exclusively traditional, but in combination with broadcasts by the Voice of America, the BBC and Spanish-language radio, the air was filled with an irresistible variety of Western sounds for him as a young boy.
When he moved to Paris to study in 1967, his perspective on the Middle East was entirely changed, to the extent that he now thinks of his country not as Syria, but the Arabic language. With his music, he seeks to give voice to a wealth of Middle Eastern poets, from ninth-century Muslim mystics and Lebanese surrealists to contemporary Palestinians. His translations to French of the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, released in France in 1977, evidence the artist’s mission -- to liberate stories once understood by masses of people from the prison of books, to “take the jewels of Arabic culture and put them in everyone’s hands.”
Azrié’s previous recordings, including The New Song of the Arabic Poets (1970), The Sufis (1973), Songs of the Oriental Tree (1985), For Children Only (1989), have generated performances across Europe. In addition, he is a published poet (“Alchemy”, 1983, “Epic of Gilgamesh”, 1979), and adapted several stories from Sumerian and Babylonian mythology for the French stage.
Future projects include “Venessia”, a suite for mezzo-soprano, male choir and western orchestral ensemble accompanying lyrics by the Venetian poet Zanzotto, and “Suerte”, songs of Arabic and Spanish lyrics written in Andalusia during the remarkable fusion of Spanish and Arab cultures that flourished in the region during the 11th and 12th centuries.