Al-Bustan Ensemble

Posted On:
15 August, 2017
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Al-Bustan Ensemble includes KINAN ABOU-AFACH and HAFEZ KOTAIN — both virtuoso musicians who are recipients of the prestigious Pew Fellowship in the Arts for their exemplary talent — performing and creating new music in collaboration with locally and internationally renowned artists.

From Fall 2011 to Spring 2017, the Ensemble included Hanna Khoury as Music Director, who initiated the idea of creating a classical Arabic takht ensemble — we are grateful for Hanna Khoury’s time and dedication to expanding Al-Bustan’s music program. Other members of the Ensemble included qanun player Hicham Chami and oud player Kinan Idnawi.


Kinan Abou-afach: Cellist/Composer

Kinan Abou-afach
Kinan Abou-afach

Kinan Abou-afach is a Syrian-born cellist and composer. He is a recipient of the 2013 Pew Fellowship in the Arts, which is awarded each year to 12 Philadelphia artists who are of exemplary talent. Abou-afach began his musical studies at the age of seven and received his first degree in cello and oud performance in the music preparatory program of the Arabic Institute of Music in Damascus. He completed a Bachelors degree in cello performance with a minor in oud performance from the Higher Institute of Music in Damascus. He has performed as a soloist with various orchestras in the Arab region and participated in master-classes with Francoise Baduell, Federico Romano, Yo-Yo Ma, and members of Alban Berg Quartet. Abou-afach moved to Chicago in 2000 to obtain his master’s degree at the DePaul University School of Music. He studied under Stephen Balderston, assistant principal of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s cello section, and was a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago for several years. Abou-afach is also an active composer, writing music influenced by Eastern and Western traditions. Some of his film scores include original soundtracks “The Long Night” by Hatem Ali; “Where We Stood” by Blake Beckstrom; and for the Theater/Dance “Jondo Portraits” by choreographer Wendy Clinard. Several of his recent compositions were commissioned by Al-Bustan, notably: Roads to Damascus with visual artist Kevork Mourad premiered in February 2013; {De}perception with digital artist Ayman Alalao premiered in May 2015, Of Night of Solace: Fantasia on Andalusian Muwashshah Poetry premiered in December 2015, and NUR: A Musical Journey in Sufi Poetry premiered in April 2016. More about Abou-afach on his website.

Hafez Kotain: Percussionist

Hafez Kotain
Hafez Kotain

Hafez Kotain, an accomplished master percussionist, is fluent in both Arab and Latin rhythms — a fluency he honed in his native countries of Syria and Venezuela. He is a recipient of the 2013 Pew Fellowship in the Arts, which is awarded each year to 12 Philadelphia artists who are of exemplary talent. Kotain began studying the doumbek in Syria at the age of seven, first performed on stage at age nine, and went on to study with master Syrian percussionist Hady Jazan, winning the national percussion competitions in Syria for five consecutive years. In Venezuela he studied percussion at the TMV Institute for Music in Valencia, where he also taught a variety of percussion styles blending Arab and Latino music to youth. Kotain has performed with Lebanese composer/musician Marcel Khalife and Al Mayadine Ensemble in their latest US and Canada tour for “Fall of the Moon: An Homage to the Poet Mahmoud Darwish.” He has also toured with Syrian singer George Wassouf in Canada and the US, and has performed in Philadelphia with acclaimed artist Sting and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Kotain teaches percussion classes at the University of Pennsylvania, and throughout the year he is a master teaching artist with Al-Bustan at Moffet Elementary School, Northeast High School, Albert M. Greenfield School, Al-Bustan Camp, and various community-based programs