Posted by David Curtis on July 09, 2015 in Blog
Every year since 2006, the Carnegie Corporation of New York has recognized immigrants to the United States who it considers to be the “Pride of America.” Over the July 4th weekend, world-renowned Syrian American composer and pianist Malek Jandali joined this distinguished list of naturalized Americans – which include the likes of Madeleine Albright, Yo-Yo Ma, and Isaac Asimov.
Well-known for his music’s bold political stances and his stark opposition to the Assad regime in Syria, Jandali has produced a diverse assortment of music, and he often incorporates Arab style into his Western classical forms. Fanfare magazine calls Jandali’s compositions “a major new addition to the 21st century’s symphonic literature,” while the American Record Guide describes his music as possessing “heart-rending melodies, lush orchestration, clever transitions and creative textures.”
Jandali amassed particular fame after the release of his haunting 2008 album, “Echoes from Ugarit,” in which he combined his own original arrangements with the world’s oldest musical notation; in the 1950s, a clay tablet was discovered in the ancient Mediterranean city of Ugarit bearing melodic inscriptions dating back to 1400 B.C.
In 2011, demonstrating intense disapproval of the Assad regime and the situation in Syria, Jandali performed his contentious piece, “Watani Ana” (I am my homeland) at a Washington, DC protest. In response, Assad forces reportedly visited the house of Jandali’s parents in Syria, where they were severely beaten; following the incident, Jandali immediately moved his parents to the United States. Still concerned for people in the war-torn country, Jandali went on an international tour in 2013 to raise awareness of the Syrian humanitarian crisis.
Every year, Jandali holds his own International Youth Piano Competition, where children from across the world submit videos of their performances for a chance to win a grand prize of $1,000 and an opportunity to perform live in concert alongside the legendary pianist. Currently, Jandali is also on the judging panel of Talent for Syria, an event in Toronto that benefits child refugees from Syria.
Having experienced the brutality of the Assad regime first hand, Malek Jandali was one of the first Syrian Americans to speak out against the dictator in 2011; he is referred to as the “musician of the Syrian revolution.” But religion and politics are often obstacles to garnering support for Syrian civilians, so Jandali utilizes his music to find common ground, specifically focusing on children: “I want my music to unite people, to motivate them to help the children in any way they can. To stop the genocide.”