The Syrian Music Preservation Initiative (SMPI) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization committed to preserving the wide variety of musical traditions in Syria, including the historical traditions of Aleppo, long a center of classical Arab music. Due to the catastrophic ongoing conflict in Syria and the destruction it has wrought, virtually all musical expression, art, creation and preservation of traditions have been superseded by the basic instincts of survival. Syria has experienced the largest forced migration seen since WWII, and who remain in the country find their existence increasing untenable. The time to act is now to prevent Syrian music from becoming a historical relic.
We founded SMPI in 2017 to preserve, protect, and celebrate the musical traditions that formed the origins and foundations of what is known today as "Classical Arabic Music." While oral histories of many cultures have helped rescue these accounts for posterity, the vast majority of Syrian musical histories, be they Arabic, Kurdish, or Syriac, have remained undocumented. The readily available "Greatest Hits" of classical Arabic music do not begin to represent the complete music and cultural heritage, and much of significance must be archived. Due to the horrific bombing and destruction of many music schools and conservatories, most of Syria’s music scholars have scattered across the globe. As a result, this intangible heritage lies in jeopardy, unavailability to students, researchers, historians and conservationists.
Studying, documenting and preserving Syria's musical culture is therefore pressing; yet scant progress has been achieved towards this end. Our mission is to halt this current stagnation. We seek to collect and catalogue existing documents, as well as unearth hereto neglected sources. In achieving this, we hope not only to preserve our musical heritage, but also render it accessible to educational institutions, students, scholars and performers.
While documentation is central to our endeavor, we recognize Syrian music as a living tradition, one we hope to revitalize through performance, archiving, and educational outreach. We are fortunate to be able pursue our project in the heart of New York, with its diverse and thriving cultural communities. We seek collaboration with the city’s array of artists and musicians, as engagement with the local artistic scene will enrich this vital project.
Through archiving, performance, and outreach, SMPI aims to celebrate Syrian music and serve as a source of pride for all Arab Americans. Cultural identity is an essential element of community building for future generations. With this work, we not only preserve Syrian heritage; we also place the Syrian American experience in the greater American narrative, one of immigrant struggle and success, in which new Americans build new lives and contribute to their new country while cherishing and preserving their cultural identity.
SMPI seeks your interest and support. Your donation is tax-exempt. Kindly send inquiries to: info@SyrianMusic.org