Published: Sept. 26, 2014

As his country continues to suffer from civil war, terrorism and atrocities, renowned Syrian-American composer and pianist Malek Jandali will bring his message of peace and human rights to CU-Boulder with a lecture and public concert on Sept. 29.

His song, “Watani Ana — I am my Homeland,” along with his work in support of the opposition to Syrian President Bashir al Assad, earned him a Freedom of Expression award from the Council on American Islamic Relations in 2011. His parents were attacked and severely beaten at their home in Homs, Syria after he performed the piece in Washington, D.C. in 2011.

Free concert and lecture with
Malek Jandali

American-Syrian composer, pianist and
human-rights advocate

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 29

Where: Chamber Hall (Room C199), Imig Music Building, CU-Boulder campus

Lecture: 2 p.m. Monday, Sept. 29, Chamber Hall; followed by a reception

Admission: Free

“Jandali’s work and humanitarian project is timely in the light of the current problems in Syria and the Middle East at large,” said Austin Okigbo, assistant professor of ethnomusicology at the CU-Boulder College of Music. “The event offers the university and Boulder communities an opportunity to experience the music and wisdom of an individual whose life, family and community have been deeply impacted by the violence in Syria and the Arab Spring.”

Kelsey Thibdeau, a PhD student in ethnomusicology, was instrumental in bringing Jandali to CU. After teaching music to K-12 students in Kuwait, she came back to Boulder just as the Arab Spring was igniting.

“I became very interested in the really great protest music that was being created,” she said.

After hearing about the gruesome 2011 killing of protest musician Ibrahim Qashoush, Thibdeau came across Jandali’s work in music, video and humanitarian work on behalf of such organizations as Save the Children and UNICEF.

She turned her interest into a research project and recently received the Joann Kealinohomoku Prize for Outstanding Student Paper from the Society of Ethnomusicology for her paper, “Musical Humanism and the Syrian Revolution: A Study on the Work of Malek Jandali,”and has been invited to present her work at the society’s national convention in November.

“Malek is giving voice to the voiceless and showing us that music actually can be a really powerful tool in the fight against oppression and promote freedom and human rights,” Thibdeau said.

Born in Germany and raised in Homs, Syria, Jandali won the Syrian National Young Artists’ competition in 1988 and was named outstanding musical performer at Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has performed with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Moscow Symphony, the Cairo Symphony and others. He is a frequent guest on NPR, CNN, BBC and PBS.

His album “Echoes from Ugarit,” recorded with the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra in 2008, includes original symphonic compositions based on the world’s oldest known music, inscribed on cuneiform clay tablets in Syria circa 1400 B.C.E. He also has been widely praised for his humanitarian work and received the 2013 Gusi Peace Prize, given annually in the Philippines.

The event is hosted by the College of Music musicology department in collaboration with the departments of anthropology and arts and art history, and the United Nations Association, Boulder County. It is sponsored by the College of Music, the Graduate Committee on the Arts and Humanities, the Center for Asian Studies and the Office of International Education.