Assistant Professor Michael Figueroa, who is a Fellow at UNC’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies interviewed Marwan Kamel of the music group City of Djinn on a recent CURS podcast episode. View a snippet below and then follow the link to listen to the full episode/read the full transcript of Viewpoints on Resilient & Equitable Responses to the Pandemic.
Part of the series “Viewpoints on Resilient and Equitable Responses to the Pandemic” from the Center for Urban and Regional Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing people around the world to question how this virus will affect the many public and private systems that we all use. We hope this collection of viewpoints will elevate the visibility of creative state and local solutions to the underlying equity and resilience challenges that COVID-19 is highlighting and exacerbating. To do this we have asked experts at UNC to discuss effective and equitable responses to the pandemic on subjects ranging from low-wage hospitality work, retooling manufacturing processes, supply chain complications, housing, transportation, the environment, and food security, among others.
Michael Figueroa is an assistant professor of music who recently embarked on a study of post-9/11 Arab American race consciousness through an expansive study of musical life across genres and geographical boundaries called Music and Racial Awakening in Arab America. It is through this work that he met Marwan Kamel, the subject of this interview.
Transcript – Viewpoints on Resilient & Equitable Responses to the Pandemic. Michael Figueroa on Arab American Music During COVID
Michael Figueroa: Hello, this is Michael Figueroa. I’m an assistant professor in the department of music and a Fellow of the Center for Urban and Regional Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. And for today’s podcast, I am interviewing Marwan Kamel, a Chicago-based musician who plays with the band City of Djinn and runs the very popular Instagram site called TheDailyMaqam, under which name he also performs a weekly radio show for Root Radio Live. Marwan, thank you so much for joining us today. Let me launch right into things. What have you been up to during this COVID lockdown?
Marwan Kamel: Essentially, like with COVID, I was like, this is my chance. I’ve never had this much time in years to essentially send myself to music school…to intensely study something new or to refine my performance, because all the… Normally I’m performing live a lot, right? And there are things that I had always wanted to learn, but I couldn’t because I never had time to practice it. I never had time for somebody to basically…to show me the way through it. From the beginning…first of all, because I started studying during this whole Corona thing, I started studying the Muwashshahat and the classical Aleppo style via Zoom, partially…basically every day, one or two hours of lessons (laughter). And then, you know, I would have on Tuesdays the radio show.
Figueroa: Who are you taking lessons with? And are they daily? Or how often are you doing this?
Kamel: I’m taking lessons with Mohammad al-Siadi. He teaches at Rutgers and Fordham. He’s from Aleppo and he was a student of Nadeem Ali al-Darwish. And Nadeem Ali al-Darwish is a composer from Aleppo. His dad was Ali al-Darwish, who is Sheikh Ali al-Darwish, who was an even bigger composer, let’s say, of the Aleppo style, like of the Muwashshahat.
Figueroa: And this came about because of the circumstances around COVID that you were able to do this?
Kamel: I think it…basically…essentially what it was that I was bothering him for, I don’t know, three years … I was doing the refugee music program. And I wanted to do some of the traditional songs to be able to teach them. And he finally was like, “okay, fine, I’m going to set up this thing.” So he decided to go with it and start teaching it to me.