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Meet the artists : Third Halaqat Music Residency

From left to right : Eirini Zogali, Simon Leleux, Sinan Arat, Kholoud Adal, Abo Gabi, Amir ElSaffar, Victoria Kirilova, Roxanna Albayati, Ghaeth Almaghoot, Islem Jemai, Jon Seismeier, Hamdi Jammousi, Elyse Tabet, Yamen Martini
© I. Molyvda, M. Crommett, L.Kirilova, Lucio, S. Amezian, D. Takacsova

Twelve musicians from Europe and the Arab worlds will meet in Anderlecht (Brussels) in December 2022 to co-create and play together under the direction of reknowned musician Amir ElSaffar. They participate in the third Halaqat music residency organised together with Werkplaats Walter, the Amman Jazz Festival and Bozar.

  • Amir ElSaffar (mentor)
Composer, trumpeter, santur player, and vocalist Amir ElSaffar has been described as “uniquely poised to reconcile jazz and Arabic music,” (the Wire) and “one of the most promising figures in jazz today” (Chicago Tribune). A recipient of the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and a 2018 US Artist Fellow, ElSaffar is an expert trumpeter with a classical background, conversant not only in the language of contemporary jazz, but has created techniques to play microtones and ornaments idiomatic to Arabic music that are not typically heard on the trumpet. Additionally, he is a purveyor of the centuries old, now endangered, Iraqi maqam tradition, which he performs actively as a vocalist and santur player. As a composer, ElSaffar has used the subtle microtones found in Iraqi maqam  music to create an innovative approach to harmony and melody, and has received commissions to compose for large and small jazz ensembles, traditional Middle Eastern ensembles, chamber orchestras, string quartets, and contemporary music ensembles, as well as dance troupes.
Described as “an imaginative bandleader, expanding the vocabulary of the trumpet and at the same time the modern jazz ensemble,” (All About Jazz), ElSaffar is an important voice in an age of cross-cultural music making. ElSaffar has received commissions from the MAP Fund, Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC), Newport Jazz Festival, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Chamber Music America, Jazz Institute of Chicago, and is composer-in-residence at the Royaumont Foundation in France in 2017-2019.
  • Eirini Zogali
Born in Corinth, Greece Eirini Zogali started her music studies in the age of 7 with classical guitar. In 2009 she got accepted in the local music school where she took an interest for the first time in Greek traditional music and in tampoura, a three string instrument with great music history. From tampoura she transitioned to the Greek bouzouki(also three strings) in the age of 15 and coordinated with it deeply. In 2015 she started her bachelor studies with specialization in the bouzouki at the Department of music science and art in Thessaloniki. During her studies there she experienced different styles of Greek, Balkan and Turkish music, with bouzouki as a tool of translation. With the guide of her teachers she learned how to come in touch with the essence of the instrument, which was created by constant experimentation and change in the techniques and the tunings, and that's how she likes to represent it. After her graduation she got accepted to the Master programme of Codarts, Rotterdam where she studies the percussive side of the oud(an instrument also of great importance to her) and its possibilities, while at the same time she is teaching the bouzouki with students from all over the world.
  • Simon Leleux
Simon Leleux is a Belgium-based percussionist specialising in doholla, darbuka and other Arab and Middle Eastern percussion instruments and styles.  Shaped like a tumbler, the darbuka, whose traditions are as diverse as the refined ways it can be played, provided the starting point for Simon’s percussion journey and his interest in many other instruments, including frame drums, tombak, riqq, and drum kits.
Having trained with masters such as Ahmet Misirli, Zohar Fresco, Pedram Khavarzamini, Madjid Khaladj, Niti Ranjan Biswas and Azzedine Jazouli, Simon has focused on studying the doholla (bass darbuka) since 2014 with the musician who broke new ground with this instrument, Levent Yildirim. Following Yildirim’s philosophy, Simon’s work with doholla has lead him to a soloistic and melodic approach to the instrument. 
He released his first solo album (‘Letter to Levent’) in 2021 and is a founding member of two other projects, Hands in Motion (HiM), and Auster Loo. Simon has also had the privilege of sharing the stage with many other celebrated artists including Fabrizio Cassol, Kudsi Erguner, Ross Daly, Ibrahim Maalouf, Khaled Alhafez, Tcha Limberger, Claron McFadden, Ugur Önür and Ghalia Benali.
In addition to performing, Simon currently teaches at the Brussels world music academy, Muziek Publique, as well as at two local academies, having graduated in pedagogy from Namur Conservatory in 2013 and Rotterdam Conservatory (Codarts - Master of Music) in Turkish percussion in 2015.
Simon mainly plays on Baraka dohollas.
  • Sinan Arat
Sinan Arat is ney (reedflute) player and singer. He was born in Erzincan (Turkey) and studied ney at the Classical Ottoman music conservatory in Izmir. He got his master degree at Codarts Rotterdam lead by the legendary bansuri master Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and ney master Kudsi Erguner. Since his meeting with the mystical flute ney, he has been reflecting his sound through various approaches that are coming from his regional Anatolian folk music, Ottoman and Indian Classical Music as well as fusions and experimental forms. He believes that music is an invisible bridge of a breath, where we all are linked and somehow creating a view of life and love in a genuine dimension. Its a bridge through a stone to human, through the hearth to cosmos, through silence to the big bang, through multitude to the oneness. Besides his Sufi music performances he also plays for film, theatre and documentary soundtracks. On television he was a guest performer at Vrij Geluiden, he performed with his instrument the ney at Podium Witteman, Big music Quiz, Tijd voor Max, The Passion, Wereld Draait Door, NBE Nieuwjaarconcerts etc.
  • Abo Gabi
Abo Gabi  is a Palestinian singer studied music and oriental singing at the National Conservatory of Music in Damascus, studying with a group of teachers and singers from Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Azerbaijan in the cities of Aleppo and Urfa between 2005 and 2007. He recorded the first album of lyrical music in Beirut entitled "Hijaz Harb" and a group of other songs in different versions. He is a singer in the Syrian Ornina Orchestra and the Al-Manara project of Palestinian musician Ramzi Abu Radwan. He also participated as a singer in the "Orpheus Twenty-First Century" project, a project founded by Spanish musician Jordi Savall that includes more than 40 musicians from all over the world, in addition to making his documentary film (I am Blue), which won the 2015 Samir Kassir Prize for Freedom of Expression and the Grand Prize of the Qalqilya Festival in Tunisia 2016.
  • Victoria Kirilova
Victoria Kirilova is a Bulgarian bass player and composer, based in Vienna. Her music is a mixture of various influences - from contemporary jazz and chamber music to the poetry and grooves of Bulgarian traditional chants and odd rhythms.
Graduated from the conservatories in Milan and Vienna, Victoria is a winner of the Leviev, ARGE and MM Jazz Scholarships, of Fidelio Competition and Premio delle Arti. She has appearances at international festivals, such as Bergamo Jazz, Firenze Jazz Festival, Lucca Jazz, Jazz al Parque (Bogota), Medejazz (Medellin), Kultursommer(Vienna), Novara Jazz, A to Jazz Festival(Sofia).
  • Roxanna Albayati
Roxanna Albayati is an interdisciplinary artist and music educator. Her practice centres around combining experimental music with performance art, exploring topics surrounding identity, sense of belonging and the body. Her music merges cross-cultural improvisation with Iranian classical music and the physicality of performance.  Although predominantly a cellist, Roxanna also uses her voice, ghaychak and her body to materialise and realise her experimentations, fascinated by the process and natural evolution of discovery. Her teaching, artistic and research practices often cross paths, where, through constantly embodying a/r/tographic principles, Roxanna places herself at the centre of inquiry, in order to strengthen and inform the basis for creative and educational practices. She is one of the founding members of the New Maker Ensemble and also performs with her experimental improvisation duo ЯК. She has performed in venues in Europe.She completed her BMus in Music at Goldsmiths, University of London her MA in Performance and Music Education at Trinity Laban, achieving a distinction as well as the Directors Prize in Music Education. In 2020, Roxanna  begun Iranian classical music training. Roxanna is currently working at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music.
  • Ghaeth Almaghoot
Ghaeth Almaghoot is a Syrian / Dutch clarinetist from a small city called Salamiyah, Syria. He did not start his journey with music as a child, it was later at age 21 that he first began playing the clarinet. 
He moved to live in The Netherlands in 2015 after fleeing the war in Syria; making a new start as both a student and musician under the guidance of his teacher, Alex Simu.
Ghaeth is a graduate from the conservatoire of Rotterdam, Codarts  class of 2022, gaining a Masters degree centred around Ethnomusicology at Codarts Rotterdam. Ghaeth has been involved in many different projects during his career, currently performing with DAFA trio, L’Chaim and Dyar Band.
He has been fortunate enough to tour to many countries with his music (Mexico, Poland, Italy, Switzerland, France, Austria, Sweden, Belgium, Turkey, Germany, Romania) and has played alongside  great artists such as Lena Chamamyan, Ellen ten Damme, Netherlands Blazers Ensemble, Konrad Koselleck Big Band, Paul de Leeuw and many others.
  • Islem Jemai
Islem Jamai, born in Medenine (Tunisia) in 1994 and from a family of scientists, started singing at the age of 11. From a young age, he was able to participate in regional festivals and other cultural events. His professional career began at the age of 15. Armed with a solid education, he came to Tunis to begin his degree in music and musicology, where he met musicians from all horizons, sang with internationally renowned artists such as Zied ZOUARI and Mohamed Ali KAMMOUN. Islem is settled in France (Marseille) since September 2017. He continued his studies at the University of Aix-Marseille and obtained his Master's degree in music and musicology in 2020. For his final project, Islem worked on the geo-musical approach of the "traditional song" of his native region. He is currently pursuing his academic career by following two parallel courses: a Master's degree in cultural management in Aix en Provence and the specialised cycle (DEM) at the Nice Conservatory (France). Although his field of predilection is Arabo-Oriental music, Islem is intensely impregnated with Jazz, Electro, Rock and Post-Rock. Through these compositions, Islem wishes to develop an identity and a vocal language of his own.
  • Jon Sensmeier
Jon Sensmeier (*1991 in Stuttgart, Germany) is a Copenhagen-based electro-acoustic musician. He grew up playing the saxophone and studied Jazz music in the Netherlands with Claudius Valk, finishing "cum laude". Around the same time, he started discovering free improvisation and digital sound processing as means of extending his expressive horizon on the saxophone and moved to Brussels to explore the vibrant experimental music scene. After two years of teaching and performing, Jon moved to Denmark to continue his research in a master program at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory. Mentored by Lars Greve, Lotte Anker and Espen Reinertsen, he focused on the combined performance of saxophone and live-electronics. His latest projects are building songs with harmony and rhythm coming from textural manipulations of his extended saxophone playing.
  • Hamdi Jammousi
Hamdi Jammoussi had a master’s degree in music and musicology interpretation and chose the percussion field to work on and to prepare his PhD. He started playing percussions since his childhood, precisely the traditional and Tunisian style. He is actually working on western music and especially the latin one. He worked with the artist Nour Mhanna with whom he got the chance to be on the stage of many Tunisian (in Carthage, Sousse…) He is a member of the WAW band; they performed 4 concerts in India in 2018. Besides, he belongs to the Rouh Gang headed by Rami Ourabi too. They had a remarkable experience performing in France twice. Moreover, he is working with the young talented Mortadha with whom they visited Paris twice to perform. He was selected by Médinea and he played with the Mediterranean Youth Orchestra for 3 sessions in 2019 (Tunisia, Turkey, France) and two sessions in 2022 in Aix en Provence. He is a percussionist with a mosaic group which contains 6 musicians from the Mediterranean countries
  • Elyse Tabet
Elyse Tabet is a Lebanese audiovisual artist and electronic musician. She works with recorded and synthesized sound to create electro-acoustic landscapes and deconstructed rhythmics, drawing her inspiration from musique concrète, ambient, industrial electronica, dub and garage beats. Elyse began working in the field of audiovisual interaction in the early 2000s, mainly as a videographer for live performances and DJ sets. She has just released a new EP, Low Toms Bright Bells and Darkest Spells with Beirut based musicians Yara Asmar and Pascal Semerdjian. Elyse is a co-founder of the Beirut Synthesizer Center.
  • Yamen Martini
Yamen Martini (1985, Aleppo) is a Belgium-based trumpet player and composer whose music blends eastern and western music across genres such as jazz, blues, oriental “maqam”, Balkan, and experimental music. Yamen’s versatile and improvisation-rich style has shined on stages across the Middle East and Europe, performing both solo and with numerous groups. In 2018 he joined the legendary Jaune Toujours for the recording of the award-winning Europeana album, which was launched at Ancienne Belgique – and toured across Belgium. He has since collaborated with formations such as 3’ain, Comartinuts, among others. Yamen has also written compositions for theatre plays and a wide range of artistic projects. In 2017 he composed music for Rachid Benzine’s Lettres à Nour, in the repertoire of the Theatre of Liège, Belgium as well as for MOVE, an inclusive theatre project by Caroline Rottier. He is also further extending his teaching and coaching experience at kleinVerhaal, an Ostend-based non-profit organisation, where he leads – and contributes to – projects such as TOSO (The Ostend Street Orchestra), YaGoon, Jam Sessions, MUZINE, and 1 on 1 sessions, as a composer, coach and musician.