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  • January 27, 2015

A Composer’s Passion, Ignited by Conflict

Warning: The above film contains scenes which may be disturbing to some viewers.

Malek Jandali is no ordinary musician. The Syrian-American composer and pianist has performed in leading concert halls around the world and has also written a song so powerful that his parents were beaten in punishment for its performance.

“I can’t think of a more stark example of how threatening art can be,” says Julie Winokur, who helped produce a new film about Jandali called Notes for My Homeland.

Born in Germany, and raised in Homs, Syria, Jandali is an American citizen who blends traditional Arab music with Western harmonies. Although now living in the U.S., Jandali’s heart is never far from Syria. His song Watani Ana (I Am My Homeland) was a inspired by the killing of children in the Syrian city of Dara’a. After he performed it during a demonstration in Washington, his parents were attacked in their home in Syria.

Picture of Malik Jandali
Malek Jandali will premiere his Syrian Symphony at Carnegie Hall, on January 31.
From the film: Notes for My Homeland

Notes for My Homeland was produced by Talking Eyes Media in partnership with Rutgers University-Newark and VII photo agency. It’s the first professionally produced piece in a new storytelling project called “Newest Americans: Stories From the Global City,” which is taking an in-depth look at immigration and the idea of American identity.

The three-year collaboration between the photo agency, production company, and university is tasked with finding new stories that educate people about immigration. The professional journalists in the group will mentor students at Rutgers-Newark—the university with the most diverse student body in the nation—as they produce their own written and visual journalism. A selection of work will be presented on the website Newest Americans.

Picture of Malek Jandali rehearses with cellist Laura Metcalf and oud player Mohamed Alsiadi.
Malek Jandali (right) rehearses with cellist Laura Metcalf and oud player Mohamed Alsiadi.
From the film: Notes for My Homeland

Notes for My Homeland features Jandali’s story, along with his music, archival video, and photos from Syria, as well as graphic photos of his parents after their attack. It was produced by Winokur and Ed Kashi, with executive production from Tim Raphael, an associate professor of arts, culture, and media at Rutgers-Newark.

And, bringing the project full circle, Jandali was first introduced to the Newest Americans project by his oud player, Mohamed Alsiadi, who is also a doctoral student at Rutgers-Newark. They will be performing, along with cello player Laura Metcalf, on January 31 at Carnegie Hall.

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Jandali will present chamber works for piano, cello, and oud, in conjunction with the release of his new album, Syrian Symphony, at Carnegie Hall on January 31st.

There are 22 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. Peter King II
    July 4, 2015

    Malek Jandali’s names has been added to an amazing list of Americans who contributed so much to our culture and society. The list of Great Immigrants in the last decade includes outstanding immigrants such as Arnold Schwarznegger, Samantha Power, Rupert Murdoch, Henry Kissinger, Martina Navartilova, Yo-Yo Ma, Albert Einstein, Itzhak Perlman and Arianna Huffington. Congratulations Malek and Kudos to America the beautiful!

  2. Amanda Brown
    July 4, 2015

    On this 4th of July Independence Day, the Carnegie Foundation of New York honored award-winning composer and pianist Malek Jandali the 2015 GREAT IMMIGRANTS – THE PRIDE OF AMERICA for his contribution to the progress of our American culture and society. This honor by such a prestigious organization says it all!

  3. Judy McCall
    April 11, 2015

    The music of Malek Jandali is an example of a new generation of American composers who understood and succeeded in utilizing the soft power of art to make a difference in the world.

  4. paolo
    February 14, 2015

    It is disgusting to see the images of killed children. How can the world permit such a leader as Bashar Assad in that country

  5. Mike
    February 11, 2015

    Is it not time to put an end to this whole MASQUERADE? “Maestro” Thomas ludwig is not only content with playing low quality outdated incorrigible music school home works, he, among others, without any moral, intellectual or even professional deterrent, is proudly boasting his total ignorance of the basics and elementary principles of Arabic Music theory, composition and evolution (experiences and repertoire). His grotesque lack of knowledge has reached a certain level enabling him to ensure the triumph of a mediocre light music “apprentice” at the expense of, already existing, brilliant contemporary Arabic composers!!

  6. Leanne Knudsen
    February 9, 2015

    People of freedom and love of beauty congratulate your work and extend prayers to you, your family and your homeland. Your gifts and courage are an inspiration and a blessing to suffering souls. May God bless and protect you and His children in the Levant. Shukran.

  7. Jerrie Sanders
    February 9, 2015

    The US musicians should welcome him, introduce him, nurture him, so that his story is heard America-wide. Even though he wrote this song for Syria, it is true of all repressed societies, and will resonate to so many. Keep playing your soulful music, please!

  8. Dawud Basharat
    February 9, 2015

    Malek: His soul is full of love and his talent is a gift to the world., I can feel the pain in it. .He shows you sorrow with such beauty.May his beautiful music build a bridge of peace for the people of Syria. .God Bless you.

  9. Shu Yuan Hsieh, Ph.D.
    February 8, 2015

    People in Syria, lead by leader like talented Malek, can make it to freedom and peace. We, in Taiwan/Formosa, had been ruled by the Chinese Nationalists with White Terror for 50 years. However, we made it in 1990s after all the peaceful resentments and struggle to reach our goal of Democracy. Cheers!

  10. Martha Brinkmann
    February 8, 2015

    My heart breaks for the people who are suffering such brutality all over the world. This music is so moving I can feel the pain in it. I wanted to know if the parents have escaped from Syria. And if knowing that his parents would suffer the music tempted him to stop performing it? Such an interesting article about an individual family and the haunt music bring the suffering right into my home and heart.

  11. F.del Olmo
    February 8, 2015

    What a wicked world we live in.! we became barbaric, (not in general) we created walls, boundaries, so sad. Animals are better than us.!

  12. Reem Yazji
    February 8, 2015

    A national treasure for the people of Syria. Malek is our ambassador of peace, cousin of Steve Jobs Jandali.

  13. rita sparks
    February 8, 2015

    My heart is full of tears for people who have had to leave their countries and cannot go back. Such
    beautiful music.!

  14. Valerie A Wagner
    February 8, 2015

    I am grateful to share a world where Malek Jandali is. He shows you sorrow with such beauty and courage. We could do with a few million more people like him.

  15. Susan Edgerton
    February 8, 2015

    Another testimony to the power of art. If it weren’t powerful, dictators and tyrants would not fear it. All the more reason to support the arts as much as we possibly can. Malek’s music is beautiful, soulful, and evocative. Thank you for this article and video.

  16. Girishkumar
    February 8, 2015

    Fantastic.

  17. Mike Gingold
    February 8, 2015

    I would like to express my heartfelt solidarity with Malek. I weep for all repressed people world-wide. May his beautiful music build a bridge of peace for the people of Syria.

  18. Hilal Ahmad
    February 8, 2015

    Malek, God Bless you for you touch my heart. The Syrian cause (and many others as well) have to be strengthened in every way until these cruel demi-gods are wiped off the face of this earth.

  19. Michelle Spallone
    January 27, 2015

    After seeing this, I my eyes burn with compassion for people I have never met and for a country that I have never visited. Malek’s music is beautiful.

  20. Vivian Reichart
    January 27, 2015

    Malek is all that is good in a human being. His soul is full of love and his talent is a gift to the world.I am so proud to call him friend.

  21. Becky peppers
    January 27, 2015

    Beauty & Heartbreak

  22. Emad Naasan
    January 27, 2015

    Malek is one of the greatest figures of Syria, proud of him and his art too much. I hope that Syria back as it was before and better, and i wish we could enjoy your music in a concert by you in one of the squares of Damascus.

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