maya youseff

Maya Youssef is a virtuoso of the kanun, a traditional Syrian 78-stringed plucked zither. Her extraordinary musical gift and generosity of outlook, warmth, humour and optimism have brought comparisons with such legendary virtuosos as Ravi Shankar, Yehudi Menhuin and Meredith Monk.

Introduced at an early age by her progressive and intellectual family of writers and artists to a huge range of music from Arabic classical, jazz, fusion, world to Tibetan monks and Western classical, Maya grew up in her native Syria determined to become a musician. She started studying music aged 7 and she initially, reluctantly learned the violin.

One day, on her way to the music institute, the taxi driver was playing a recording of an enchanting instrument that blew her mind. It was the kanun. She asked the taxi driver which instrument they were listening to and told him she was determined to learn it. His reply shocked her but also kindled a flame: he told her girls did not play the kanun; it was a man’s instrument played by men. He laughed at her when she told him she would learn to play it. That same day the head of the institute announced that the kanun class was open for enrolment...

After studying the kanun at the High Institute of Music and Dramatic arts in Damascus, Maya moved to London as part of Arts Council England’s Exceptional Talent scheme where 300 artists are selected each year from around the world to migrate to the UK. Maya has since performed at major UK festivals and venues including Celtic Connections, BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, Bath Festival and Celebrating Sanctuary at the Southbank.

For Maya the act of playing music is the opposite of death; it is a life and hope affirming act. For her, music is a healer and an antidote to what is happening, not only in Syria, but in the whole world.

Carthage Music administers copyrights for Maya Youssef worldwide.