Issam Rafea and Kinan al-Azmeh during a concert in Kyoto in 2008
June 10, 1976|
Life and career
Born in Damascus, Syria in 1976, Azmeh began to play the clarinet at age six. Originally taking lessons in the violin, he switched to an even-handed instrument that left-handed players did not play too differently from right-handed players. Azmeh studied at the Arab conservatory of music in Damascus. At the University of Damascus, he double-majored in electrical engineering and music. Azmeh received his master's degree and graduate diploma in music from the Juilliard School in New York City. In 1997, Azmeh was the first Arab musician to win first prize in the Nicolay Rubinstein International Youth competition in Moscow, Russia.
He is one of the five members of the band Hewar, which formed in 2003. This band, whose name means "dialogue" in Arabic, is entirely made up of musicians from Syria. On his website, Azmeh describes Hewar as "an attempt to transcend the barriers of cultural disparities and misconceptions, and establish a civilized communication which builds on what brings humans closer together rather than separates them." He claims that Hewar's music draws from a variety of influences, from both the Arab world and the West. In addition, Azmeh plays with the New York City-based City Band and with the band Neolexica. As a student at Juillard, Azmeh co-founded Neolexica with pianist Dinuk Wijeratne.
In 2009, Azmeh played at the Arabesque Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. He has also played with the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra, debuting a clarinet concerto written especially for him by Zaid Jabri at the opening of the Damascus Opera House. In addition, he has played with Daniel Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.
Azmeh is currently based in New York City, where he is pursuing his Ph.D. at the City University of New York with Charles Neidich. He regularly travels to Damascus, where he plays in a Syrian chamber group and gives concerts and workshops.
With the Azmeh-Wijeratne Duo
With the Kinan Azmeh Quartet
- Elastic City (2012)
- Rigodon (2007)
With Kulna Sawa
- Incognito page on Azmeh
- Interview with Azmeh
- Epoch Times article
- Hewar, on Azmeh's personal website
- Kinan Azmeh: A Syrian Frequent Flier With Clarinet in Hand. NPR, 7 March 2009.
- Be Here Now - Kinan Azmeh and Dinuk Wijeratne Down San Francisco Way. Sequenza, 16 August 2010.
- Biography of Kinan Azmeh