Syrian Music Preservation Initiative – Home

Quench the Thirsty

1AM March 13, 2022 | Roulette


    Wasla (Suite) of Isqi al-'itash (Quench the Thirsty)
    وصلة اسق العطاش

  • - Sama'i Hijaz, composer: Mahmoud Ajjan
    سماعي حجاز, لحن: محمود عجّان
    View transcription

  • - Quench the Thirsty, composer: Mohammad al-Manbiji
    وصلة اسق العطاش, لحن: محمد المنبجي
    View transcription & translation

  • Intermission

    Wasla (Suite) in Maqam Huzam/Rahat al-Arwah
    وصلة مقام راحة الأرواح - هزام

  • - Sama'i Rahat al-Arwah, composer: Mahmoud Ajjan
    سماعي راحة الأرواح, لحن: محمود عجّان
    View transcription

  • - Muwashah Ghazalon , composer: Khalil Haj Hussein
    موشح غزالٌ زارني, لحن: خليل حاج حسين
    View transcription & text

  • - Muwashah Ya Gazalan Zaada, composer: Khalil Haj Hussein
    موشح يا غـزالاً زادَ هجراً, لحن: خليل حاج حسين
    View transcription & text

  • - Muwashah Akhalu Al-Aynein, composer: Khalil Haj Hussein
    موشح أكحلُ العينين, لحن: خليل حاج حسين
    View transcription & text

  • - Muwashah Ya Ghosna Naqa (Iraq), composer: Unknown composer
    موشح يا غصـن نقا, لحن: مجهول المؤلف
    View transcription & text


Mahmoud Ajjan

1916–2006, Latakia

Mahmoud Ajjan was a scholar, oudist, violinist and composer who was primarily self-taught through extensive study and practice. He began composing at the age of 15 and continued throughout his lifetime, becoming one of Syria’s hidden gems.

In 1945, he established the Musical Club of Latakia which became the institution responsible for the musical education of the youth in the region. This aided many to pursue music professionally as adults. In 1957, he was one of the Syrian delegates to the 6th World Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow. Here he performed one of his compositions for violin at a celebration of the prominent Arab poet and philosopher Abu al-’Alaa al-Ma’arri (973-1057). His performance was so well received that he was later honored at the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies. After his subsequent return, Ajjan received two awards from the Syrian Ministry of Culture, in 1959 and then again in 1969. 

In addition to performing, composing and teaching, he was dedicated to research, archiving and transcribing numerous Adwar (pleural of Dawr) and Muwashahat and published two books, Study of the Dawr (1990) and Leil & ‘Ayn in music and poetry traditions (2001). While not widely known outside of his region, his impact on composition, musicology and his students was immense.

Khalil Haj Hussein

1961–Present, Latakia

Born in al-Haffa, Latakia, Khalil Haj Hussein started learning music (oud) and composing on his own at the age of seven. He was a part of the Nahawand Ensemble from 1981 until 1990 and he studied Arabic Literature at Tishreen University and worked as an Arabic teacher for 10 years in the 1990s. After this, he began teaching music and was responsible for the school’s theatrical ensembles and choir which received numerous awards under his tutelage. Hussein has worked with numerous musicians as a vocal coach and theory teacher.

He has written over 70 compositions (21 of which are muwashah) and tonight we perform two of them.


Syrian Music Preservation Initiative (SMPI)

The Syrian Music Preservation Initiative is dedicated to preserving and invigorating the diverse ethnic and regional music traditions of Syria (including but not limited to Arabic, Kurdish, Armenian and Syriac). Our performances promote the musical heritage of this region by presenting older works that are less known to the greater public as well as supporting contemporary exploration of the traditional forms by commissioning composers from Syria and the diaspora. In this way, we celebrate the past, present and future of Syrian music. 

We strive to preserve the Syrian compositional practices by researching their history and context, translating lyrics, providing transcriptions, documenting our performances, and—most importantly by making our digital resources accessible to artists, scholars, and communities worldwide. 

Please consider donating today.

Takht al-Nagham

Takht al-Nagham is SMPI's performing ensemble. Based in New York City, the group features a traditional Takht (Arab chamber music group). “Nagham” is the Arabic word for melody; it is commonly used as a synonym for the Arab Maqam system. The Takht is committed to performing the classical and folk Syrian repertoire with traditional acoustic instruments. In order to familiarize audiences in the U.S. with the original structure of the musical traditions, the Takht presents its sets (called Waslah) in the manner that they were originally performed. The Takht includes skilled Syrian and non-Syrian musicians who rely heavily on improvisations and are deeply immersed in the Syrian musical tradition.

Samer Ali

Violin, Founder and Artistic Director

A native of Syria, Samer Ali is a physician, violinist, composer, founder and artistic director of the Syrian Music Preservation Initiative. Samer has led Takht al-Nagham, SMPI's ensemble, in New York at Alwan for the Arts, Scandinavia House, and Roulette Intermedium; as well as at the Kennedy center in Washington, DC with Syrian soprano Lubana al-Quntar.

He began studying western classical violin at the age of eight with Fawaz al-Ali and Ali Farran, and later pursued intensive conservatory studies with Ali Mukhtar Babayev. He studied the Arab music traditions with Simon Shaheen, Anwar Hariri, and Muhammad Qadri Dalal. In Damascus, he co-founded Awj Ensemble, and has continued to perform in the US with groups like the Bronx Orchestra and the National Arab Orchestra.

Marissa Arciola Ali

Bassist, President

Marissa completed her undergraduate degree in double bass performance at the Eastman School of Music under the tutelage of renowned soloist, James VanDemark and Curtis Buris. Marissa continued with music while completing her MBA and MA in Arts Administration at SMU.

After her studies, Marissa has worked with a number of nonprofit organizations while playing with groups ranging from classical, rock, and Middle Eastern music.

Lubana al-Quntar

Mutriba (Lead Vocalist)

Lubana al-Quntar is regarded as one of the leading opera singers of the Arab world, with a repertoire that also includes traditional Arabic, folk and pop music. Born in Damascus, she completed her academic studies at the Royal College of Music in London and the Damascus Conservatory of Music, and studied operatic performance at the Maastricht Academy of Music in Holland.

She has appeared globally as an opera soloist and as a traditional Arab singer, astonishing audiences with her mastery of the two different musical traditions. Notable appearances include Opera Bastille (Paris); Flemish Radio Orchestra Musica Viva (Bremen); Avincenna (Doha), the world’s first Arabic opera; and the Silk Road Festival (Tokyo). She headed the opera department at the Damascus Conservatory (2003-2011) where she taught opera and Arabic singing. She has dedicated her voice and efforts to raise awareness of Syrian culture and aid world refugees through fundraising concerts.

Special Thanks

Erik Jönsson for making the website and our digital program possible, and for singing in the choir.

The SMPI Board of Directors: Hanna Madbak, Fouad Salloum, Dr. Homam Ibrahim, and Karin Nangreave.

The SMPI volunteers for their great work and enthusiasm.