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Before War, A Punk Drummer Preserved Syrian Chants

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Before the civil war in Syria destroyed ancient religious sites — and scattered some of the oldest Christian communities in the world — Jason Hamacher made several trips there, taking photos and recording ancient Sufi and Christian chants.

The project got its start when Hamacher read in a book about "the world's oldest Christian music." He tracked down From the Holy Mountain author William Dalrymple, who told him there were no recordings of the music — and that "it's not a monastery in the desert; it is a Syrian Orthodox church in the middle of the city of Aleppo." Hamacher ended up staying at that church as a guest of the archbishop, who has since been kidnapped by rebels.

As Hamacher tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross, he is planning a series of albums called Sacred Voices of Syria. The first, which was released this summer on his own Lost Origin Productions, is called Nawa: Ancient Sufi Invocations and Forgotten Songs From Aleppo. Hamacher isn't coming at this from the perspective of a musicologist, or as a member of a religious community. He's a drummer who's played in several punk bands in the Washington, D.C., area, including Frodus, Decahedron and Regents. You can hear their conversation at the audio link.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Source: NPR

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"If you want to understand a political conflict, it helps to understand the culture in which that conflict is taking place," says host Terry Gross. Fresh Air is one of the most popular programs on public radio, breaking the "talk show" mold, and Gross is known for her fearless and insightful interviews with prominent figures in American arts, politics, and popular culture. "When there is a crisis in a foreign country, we sometimes call up that country's leading novelist or filmmaker to get the cultural perspective." Fresh Air features daily reports and reviews from critics and commentators on music, books, movies, and other cultural phenomena that invade the national psyche.

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