Olaf in an interview with Malfono Nuri Iskandar

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Olaf in an interview with Malfono Nuri Iskandar

مشاركة#1 » 08 يوليو 2009 22:22

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Malfono Nuri Iskandar :
My dream is to complete my own project which is the development and refreshness in the Modern Syrian Music as far as I can with the aid of God


We can say that the music is a universal language in itself that is important as much as the formal languages around the world, so if you tend to East or West … South or North... you will meet one of the musical colors " there is no nation on earth however it was mean but to have music " said the bishop Yohanon Dolabani . And in talking about Assyrian –Syriac Music we should go back thousands of years to the era of Sumar, Akkad, Babylonia , Ashur and Aram … passing by the Christian age , this nation used the same music in churches with replacement of the pagan ideas by the Christian believes … and whatever we speak about Assyrian – Syriac music, our statement would not be fair as when the specialists and professions do … so we leave this for who is specialist in music .. and today from A-olaf.com site we introduce you one of the Assyrian –Syriac music pillar, with one who sacrificed by his self in order to elevate this music and to reach it to the universal stages, with one who sacrificed a lot in order to archives the Syriac Church Music and preserve it from losing, with one who contribute al lot to create a common Syriac song that is original in it's mothers' mold depending on the spirit of the ( Beth Gazo ) treasures of Syriac Music ….
We introduce you Malfono Nuri Iskandar …
Welcome Malfono Nuri in Olaf site …

1- Who is malfono Nuri?

- Date of birth:
My date of birth is in 1938 in Der Alzor from an emigrated Urhuian parent (from Urhoi) in 1920 though the emigrated people came at the first place to Ain-Arab then they degraded to tall-Abid and then to Aleppo as the final settlement.

- The earliest life:
I grow up in Der-Alzor for about four or five years then we moved to Aleppo.

- The domestic state quo now:
I 'm married and I have two daughters, Mariam the oldest one plays cello. And Sawsn is playing violin too.


- The artistic start:
It was through the Syriac Orthodox scout band in Aleppo where I used to play at trumpet. Then I took lessons in violin for one year.

- The academic certificate "specialization":
I have a license from the high institute for musical education in Cairo where I started studying in 1959 and the graduation was in 1964. Then I started in teaching in Aleppo's schools through the ministry of education (elementary schools and the house for preparation of teachers).
- Management positions:
From the year of 1994 till 2003 I was the manger of the Arabic institute for music in Aleppo (ministry of education).

(Smiling) and let's not forget that I was a deacon in the church from my youth.

- The most prominent musical achievements for Nuri Iskander wither in Homeland or abroad, from composing musical plays and establishing and practicing Syriac choirs?

- I established the first choir for Mor Girges Church for Syriac orthodox in Alsyrian quarter – Aleppo in 1965. After my coming back from Cairo
- forming the second choir for Mor Afrem Alsyriani church for Syriac Orthodox in Alsulimani – Aleppo where it included Malfonitho Juliana Aiuop and ladies and Missies of the wonderful voices . And then we joined the two choirs together in one choir.
- Between 1970 \ 1973, forming "Chamiram" band in Beirut with Malfono Amanouel Salamon and other friends.
- Between 1989 \ 1990 in Swede , forming choir in Sodertalia in the name of ( the Syriac Choir ) then after my return homeland they renamed it as " the Choir of Mor Jacob Alnisibiny ".

- Singing plays:
Yes... Yes … we started such a thing from Aleppo; in 1996 we introduced musical party. The program of the singing play contained one comic act in the name of "Hara Al-Ulob" the burning of the hearts "in Arabic language.
Then the play "the king and the spring" was from three acts, preparation of Mor Afrem Choir "Alsulimani" and choir of Mor Girges.
Then I started in pictorial music in movies and series … and it's hard to remember their names …

- For example Malfono:

Between 1980 \ 1981 the series " Aldorob Aldaika: the narrow roads " for the director Fardos Alatasi and " Alwasit: mediator" too, at the same time …. (Trying to remember others too) … and the move " Alalakat alami: The General Relations "for Samer Thikra" and the series " Balad al Zaeton: the country of olive " …
- did not you tried to archives this works malfono "?
"Am I free to archives them??? … unfortunately … I don't remember … there is so many series …"

- Prominent musical parties and concerts and other recorded Artistic products:
- Unesco concert … (interrupting) malfono we will talk about this later in a special part of the questions….

- ( the Syrian song festival in 1995 ) by the Syriac choir in a program it's name was " the dialogue of love " in the castle in 1996 and it's worth to mention that master president Bashar Al-Assd and his wife Asma Al-Assd attended this festival . And between 1995 \ 1996 in Aleppo we introduced the poem "Khatama" for the poet Hussin Hamzi. Then it was concert of lute and concert of cello in Aleppo in the same time approximately in 1995.
- In 2008 on the occasion of " Damascus as the Culture of Education " there were two show in the Opera house in Damascus and the whole program was of my composition and in the second show we were honored by the attending of master president Bashar Al-Asad and his wife.

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- and we had a choir called " the Syriac Choir in Aleppo Qoqoih ܩܘܩܶܝ̈ܐ" we produced in Paris 1995 and Berlin too , then once again in Paris in 2003 in " the House of Universal Education " where we founded a very very independent band is " Qoqoih ܩܘܩܶܝ̈ܐ: potters " this is what we introduced in Paris , Jinev , Brocsel , Baljica …. Then in 2005 the same band of Qoqoih "introduced in Madrid. and in Holland I founded a band of 12 person ( 6 girls and 6 guys ) some of them were graduated from the high institute and some of them were from Aleppo choir " Qoqoih " in addition to five players , we shared with Holladian band ( the Hollandian Stage Z.T Hollandian ) , we stated in Hinhouven for three months doing trials with Hollandian actors to perform the play " slaves of Bacchus " which is an ancient Greek play for Euripides around 400 B.C , though the Grecian plays contain a musical choirs . This play was performed in five European capitals and for 25 shows as festivals degree. the first performing was in Brocsel then Viana then Athena then Tsalonike then Kolmen then doisburg in Germany then in Amsterdam in Holanda where the Queen of Spain attended this show and clapped delightly with a smile …..

- Who supported this shows:
The Hollandian Theater took the support from many cultural places in Paris, Germany … and others and they have their own ways in doing that.

- How did they contact you to share in this work?
before two years ( in 2000 ) from starting in this work , the director sent me a message in Fax , and he presented his desire to met me in Aleppo to talk about music and to be acquainted with the musical colors that are exist in the East , and I welcomed him and then it was the meeting with two director of the play ( Johansson Simons and Paul Kock ) and the play was very important though it present a conversation between the ancient Syrian thought and the Grecian education . They chose in a smart way a good music from this region to perform a big and amazing play. And after meeting I let them hear 8 colors of music and they were so glad to hear that … and they said "this is our request" and they asked me to prepare this music and I did and said: "its honor for me". So the preparation took a whole year from writing the music and preparing the choir. The length of this work was three hours (one and half an hour was singing and the other were acting). and the theatrical work left a good impression in all capitals though we sung in Arabic but in Syriac melodies from (Hasho) Good Friday specifically, and that because the play was tragic, and I added also my composing too … and the work obsessed the admiration of the audiences a lot, though the audience informed us after the dramatic work were finished about the wonderfulness of that melodies and music and congratulated us for that great work.
we was a little bit afraid that the audience may not like the music , but thanks God they enjoyed it a lot, cause I put all Syriac Education that is existent here , even from the Islamic Arabic Education , Kurdish Education , and Syriacs .. And some of the Syrian folklores things, in addition to my composition as I said before, so it was a mixture of the ancient Syrian music worthiness..

photos of " Slaves of Backuse " :
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a photos for the Artist Abrahim Kevo as Dyonesyos role

- Special recorded products:
There's products from the production of educational sides in Damascus which is "Alaws Company for publishing " were they adopted these products which are:

1- CD " Tajaliat " 2008 ( revelation ) : contains : ( dialogue of love ) , ( Ahat : ah ! ) Then a part of Sufi music, an introduction in mystical singing for the poet Yaser Mah'mood " Ya wahb al-hobi " (donor of love) performed by the symphonic orchestra.
2- CD "Ruia" 2008 (veision): contains: concert of lute and concert of cello with chamber orchestra.

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of reveltion and vision :

1- dialogue of love


2 - concertos of lute and cello

click here to see a report about dialogue of love from youtube

3- The tripartite string: is not released yet, we recorded it in Germany in Aosnaburg in 2008.
In addition to some other CDs we recorded in Swede .

- Coming products that is not released yet:

there is a lot that is not released yet , I hope it will release in future otherwise I'll be sad a lot … some are a group of poems forming a specific topic , and there is a poem " Khatama " for the poet Hussein Hamzi , it had been sung but did not released on a CD yet , and this poem itself was translated to Syriac language in the name of ( Barqana ) which mean the savor and it had been sung in Swede in 1989 , cause if this color released in Syriac with new arrangements and new orchestra divisions it will appear in a very beautiful form and really this work deserve this .


2- May you explain for us about the history of Syriac music and its antiquity and its extension till today? (In B.C and A.D) and the role of church in saving the Syriac heritage?


The Syriac music is the other face of the current Syrian music and it is older in roots and in ancient origins, it preserved its old impress that is the ancient Syrian personality. No doubt that by passing time and its movement verbally from one generation to another, some of marginal effects affected it from the neighboring nations. but the examiner for this melodies in the science of comparison and analyzation can figure that a big part of this melodies are original that represent the soul and passion of the area ( Mesopotamia , Syria , Palestine , and Jordan ) .
And the Syriac melodies were before the Christianity on two levels as it is in all nations: the first level was the public one (folklore), and the second one is the formal level and it represents the professional music in the formal ceremonies in palaces and temples.
and after the emergence of the Christian teachings and establishing the first church in Jerusalem and the second in Antakia , the people of the areas entered in the new religion slowly till the spreading of Christian religion in all areas and outside it , and from the first founding of the Syriac Church in Antakia and it's follows , the Syrians were observing to show the Syrian personality ( the Syriac one ) from all sides inside the church that afterward resulted a struggle and fissions with the other churches that are not Syrian and especially the Byzantine church , and from this base they ( the Syrians ) devoted and focused on the most common melodies that are simple and spreaded it between the common people and they entered it in the systems of the church melodies , and before the end of the forth century , the teacher Mor Afrem Al-Syriani in Urhi played a big role in the revival and the arrangement of the church melodies and established a female choir for the first time in the Christian church the performed the melodies in the most beautiful forms and arrangements . And at the end of the seventh century this melodies played a big role until it has been completed it's arrangements by the favor of Mor Jacob Urhoi.

- The meaning and the differences between the Syriac – Assyrian – Babylonian – Sumerians … is it from the same source or rather is it one or not ?

Yes they all are one … cause the Syriac music passed in many historical and cultural periods and each of it has it's own characters and it affected each other. And as long as that there is no musical codification, a lot of it parts have been lost and the other parts remained in the religious music in the area and in the publican memory later.

And from the earliest Christian ages the Syriac music formed through annual ceremony and on levels as we said before at the end of the seventh century this ceremony completed and arranged by Mor Jacob Urhoi.

- Some features of Syriac music:
1- A verbal heritage, people transferred it from generation to another through listening and preservation.
2- The Syriac melodies are marked by simplicity and spontaneity from the easy interesting type.
3- Contains a distances of quarters as it is with the middle eastern music ( Arabic – Turkish – Persian ) .
4- Depends on categories , tripartite , fourfold , fivefold : Beat , Rasd , Sika , Hijaz , ….
5- The composition of musical sentences is hierarchical , to the degrees of the types one after another , either rising or falling , in addition to jumps in length in fifth , sixth , seventh , eighth , according to the melody .
6- The musical sentences have a distinctive special rhythm.
7- Part of this melodies humor and parallels the poetic premieres and others are different.
8- There are hymns that are composed on one word such as "Halil ouia" in a different windings and sentence, such a thing is applied on sentences composed like the previous form.
9- As the Syriac music contains a lot of quantities of the folklore common music for the area, it contains an indication and symbols and contents of the spirit of the common music in the area…


- The eastern rhythms as 6\8, Baladi, laf... And others and the musical instruments that we are using today on a universal level... It's said that their origin is Syriac, ( from Syria and Mesopotamia ) and all this are according to the scripts and the sculptures that were discovered in Syria and Mesopotamia that assure that theories that it is from our nation's creation in the first replace which developed to a different forms later on , so what is commenting on this ?

we can't name it as Syriac only and it's not the property of Syrians only … cause all the civilizations took from each other and affected each other and as well as our nation had this musical instruments wither rhythmical ( like drum ) or windy instruments ( like pipe ) or strings … and others , cause there were other nations used this instruments such as Indians and Pharaohs and others … and we can't assure definitely about the rightness of this theories and archeological discovers that found in this field though that this thing needs a very accurate scientific research … it's right that there's archeological discovers and studies that support this point of view but every day there are a new other discovers too … maybe another discovers emerge in future that assure about the possession of this instruments for other nations … and this thing we can applied it above the melodies too .

3- The influent of the Syriac Music and its favor upon the universal civilization in general?

It's obvious in the musical history that the Church of Roma in Italy from the forth century , influenced by the Syriac music and especially the tunes of Mor Afrem who invented the art of church music and others , so the church of Roma used a lot of these melodies then it moved to the world in a different ways .

- The influent of the Syriac Music and it's favor upon the Arabic Islamic music like " Qdod " and Andalusian terza rima and others ,and how the Syriac music entered in their educations and their music ?

During the theological and intellectual disagreements between the Syriac church in the five century A.D. Islam emerged as a new thought in the sixth century . And different categories from our nation converted to this religion carrying with them the heritage of ancestors from thought and civilization which contains music too, and they carried it honesty to the people.
So the Syriac music consider to be in basis from the original roots in the Islamic music in Cham country ( Syria – Iraq – Jordan – Lebanon – Palestine ) and the Arabic Islamic terza rimas and Qodo are the extension of Syriac schools ( Madarish ) and others , from the Syriac melodies with a little development that happened in the Islamic society later on .

And we say that the Syriac music weared a new dress and a new state that developed with the development of the Islamic civilization and reached by it's forms, sentences and molds, the peak and the top in creativeness. And the good examiner for the Syriac Christian music and Islamic one in the area, will find that they are the continuousness of the same personality which is the Syrian personality in it's splendor artistic and musical forms.

And as for Andalusian terza rimas it differs from the Eastern terza rimas from the tune compositions and rhythmical one. for the Andalusian terza rimas is a school in itself and the Eastern terza rima is a school in itself too , but the connection is through the new poetry that have been written as a new different patterns cause the poems of the terza rima have it's new foots as it was common in past .

4- May you talk about the project of notation the Syriac church melodies (Beth Gazo) in the note form? (Which consider to be your best projects in saving the Syriac melodies from losing?)

- How the idea started?

The idea is old since I was a student in the high institute in Egypt, I was influenced by this melodies and when I knew it's details and loved it, I decided to document it. so in the sixteenth till the seventeenth I and Khori Joseph Tarzi recorded the Beth Gazo on a spool type from the priest Adai and we finished about three quarters of the project, but the project stopped for years because of the traveling of Khori Joseph to complete his study, then it was the meeting with the metropolitan Johann Abraham (metropolitan of Aleppo and it's follows) were he was so excited for this project and by his support we were able to do this project as you see it. And what did Mor Johann Abraham mentioned in the introduction of the Beth Gazo book is the right thing about the events of producing this work.

- What was the aim of this project?
The aim was to save the Syriac church melodies from losing because they are verbal heritage moved from generation to another and it was not archivezed to return back to it to be acquainted with the original melodies and distinguish them from the foreigner melodies. So any musician from the area would be able to understand and get benefit from this notation in the form of note.

- What dose this book has, and how long it took to produce it?
the book of Beth Gazo has the melodies of the Syriac orthodox church by what the patriarch Mor Ignatius Jacob the third (1980 + ) in the form of note as the tradition of monastery of Zafran and this took about 4 years ,and as for the second version it contains the tradition of Urhi school and this version was done in a faster time ( 2 years ) .. And there was a hope for writing down another school … God willing in the future we may do it.
- it was mentioned in the Book of Beth Gazo that this work (writing down the Beth Gazo) was talked about since the epoch of the patriarch Mor Ignatius Jacob the third where the metropolitan Johann Abraham was a secretary for the patriarch and there was negotiations for establishing this project but unfortunately it was failure and not done … but before the metropolitan Johann Abraham become the metropolitan of Aleppo for the Syriac Orthodox church he called you to achieved this project.
So what is the reason behind not achieving this project on the epoch of the patriarch Mor Ignatius Jacob the third?
There was no agreement about the financial arrangements and other things in the appreciating and evaluating the importance of this distinctive and important project.

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5- The Syriac public music:
Why it was too late for it's emergence in the modern age?

That's because of the Syriac Christian clergymen who forbidden singing in the Syriac language considering it to be a sacred language that must not be sung in it about love relations and others. So they started to sing in Arabic in Marden and its follows cause they could not sung in Syriac until the state quo was changed and people were able to create a common Syriac song in a late time.

- Pioneers of the Syriac public song?
from the pioneers in the field of the Syriac public song I can say: " Malfono Gabriel Assad " by his very beautiful and national songs that are enthusiastic, and Malfono Paul Mikhail and Dr. Abraham Lahdo and the musician George Chachan and Malfono Danho Daho … and others , there is a lot who contributed in creating the Syriac public song , and I think there's no time to mention them all but I settle for this names for now .

- Your opinion in the first festival of the Syriac Song in Kamishli city 1995 cause as we heared that you were about to supervise this festival but that did not happened ?

with all my respect to everyone who contributed in establishing this festival but I want to say that whatever happened there was a naïve idea .it was proposed to me to supervise this festival before that date and one of the persons who asked me about this was Malfono Alias Dawd and from the beginning I told him " put one million and half aside before we start talking " cause there is a huge costs in order to establish a festival on a high level that is worthy for this song , from bringing an academic players as orchestra form and founding a new musical divisions for the Syriac song as ( eastern orchestra ) and calling cultural activities and mass medias wither in Homeland or from abroad , and establishing a new recoding … , etc . All this in order to produce the festival in a professional way, but this speech were not listened to. and after this speech (in the next year ) they met me and asked my once again about the costs and I replied : " now they become two millions and half " so every time you delayed this project the costs will increase more and more . but unfortunately our people like " pride and deception " so they established what they called a " festival " and the players as simple example were not an academic and professional players to introduce a Syriac song but they were the players of wedding parties and common parties that where in the area there ,and there was no eastern orchestra and the bands were playing on drums , Organ and guitars … and other western instruments .

But Malfono….:
you will tell me that " it's better to be even as this simple shape for not having anything at all " … ok that's fine, but why our people always wants every thing to be free not spending a thing on it and then they call it a " FESTIVAL "!!!, this is not a festival, cause the festivals are founded on a professional level more than this, that has an orchestrical division … and what happened I call it " A Syriac Music Party ".

- Your role in creating a Syriac public music that is healthy and original:

the most important element and the main factor in creating an original Syriac song is to depend on the melodies and spirit of the ( Beth Gazo ) and that what I did in all my works in this spirituality and by this I summarize my role in creating a healthy public Syriac song .

6- The UNESCO party 1973:

- The idea and the goal, and how long it took from preparation ?
the idea was mine and I'm it's original founder of it , and the goal of it ,of course was to spread the original Syriac heritage and education . And it took from preparation about three years, I established within it Chamiram Group for this mission.

- The obstacles and problems that you faced to success this concert?
it's lot , I can say that they are economical obstacles and that there weren't any kind of cooperation from Syriac associations except for " Alnadi Al-Syriani " in Abosharia , in addition to all this obstacles I can say briefly that there were disagreements upon some intellectual and artistic things …and others .

- Role of Habib Mousa in this concert?
It was settled that the artist Habib Mousa to share in this concert but because of the retreat of his uncle (Fawze Shmas) , the sponsor of this concert in the beginning , because of intellectual disagreements , caused to the retreatness of Habib Mousa too from sharing .

- It was said and we read in some articles that the Assyrian Democratic Organization contributed a lot wither financially or morally in order to make this concert success?

There where no role for (ADO) organizationally nor financially neither morally. on the contrary I sensed that there where a personal insult to me through the behaviors of some persons.

- It's known that the artist Wadi Al-Safi perfomed two songs in this concert, who invited him and how it was done? And what are the songs that he shared?

He shared in two songs "Iman Ya Zawna" lyrics Amanouel Salamon and melody composition of mine and it was in the eastern Syriac dialect. And "Grshla idi" lyrics Ninos Aho and the melody is folklore and I think it is for Dr.Abrohom Lahdo, and this one was in the western Syriac dialect. And I and Amanouel Salamon invited him and he welcomed and shows his tendency and readiness to share and sing.

- The cover of the cassette of the first concert 1973?
(Trying to remember)... I thing that there's no cover in my thoughts.

- The reason for not establishing another concert such as this level?
"Because there are no serious people that are ready to produce such a project and to lose money from their pockets "

7- Did you touched any kind of serious steps wither from our churches or from our political parties that supports the Syriac Song from losing and saving it from the foreign western forms ? Is there any financial or morally support to our great composers from that sides?
no I didn't touched such a thing and really it's a negative attitude … " it's really unbelievable … I lost about 200 thousand S.P on the UNESCO concert at that time , and nobody tried to help me at all , and I stayed till 1977 ( after three of four years ) working on straightening my financial state … "


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Wadi Al-Safi with Chamiram Group in the UNESCO conert 1973

1- grshla ide : Wadi Al-Safi

2- Iman Ya Zawna : Wadi Al-Safi

3 - Ana wa Khliti : Samaan Zakaria

4 - Grohmono : Samia Khuri

5 - Habibat : Jan Barbar

6 - Habibi Sargon : Samia Khuri

7 - Kha Shemshe : Amanouel Salamon

8 - Kma_Marira : Jan Barbar

9 - Murunla :Amanouel Salamon and Samia Khuri

10 - Rawe_Lawe

11 - Talakh_Khlit : Jan Barbar

12 - Tarte Yawne : Amanouel Salamon

13 - Taw Nethtayab : Samaan Zakaria

14 - Tela Tela : Amanouel Salamon and Samia Khuri

15 - Timun_Raqda : Samaan Zakaria


8- You as a person who works in the field of Syrian mass media directly, could you tell us a little it about the role of the Syrian Media in supporting and introducing the Syriac song?
there is a very perceptive educational sides that have the tendency to show and introduce the ancient Syrian music ( Syriac one ) to the world , because they feel proud of this heritage and they consider themselves as a part of it and one of this companies I mention " al-aous for publishing" : http://www.al-aous.com and " The Syrian Company for development "

visit the page of Malfono Nuri that is established by " discover-syria.com site ( one of Al-aous company product )


8- Your opinion in the present and the future of the Syriac song?
there's positives and there's negative things in it , and there's the good one and the ordinary one … the idea is that there's still a work in this field , and in the future I really don't know and that's depend on the quality and quantity always .

9- We will not say your wish … let's say farther from this, what is your dream Malfono Nuri?


My dream is to complete my own project which is the development and the revival of the Syrian modern song as far as possible, God willing.


10 - Last words:

Thank you in Olaf site for this interview ….

In return we say for malfono Nuri that if your dream is to develop and revival the Syrian modern song … we simply say that our dream is to say your dream come true...

Finally we would like to thank both of :
1- Malfono Abboud Zeitoune for his supplying us with many materials for this interview such as the song list of the song which Malfono Nuri composed and the songs of the UNESCO concert 1973 and others .
2- The artist Abrahim Kevo for supplying us with the photos of "Slaves of Backus" play.


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This interview performed at 4 June 2009
And everything that is exists here is authenticated by Malfono Nuri before we broadcast it.
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