Maya Youssef

Live Stream

3 April 2020

Maya Youssef plays a qanun. No, a year ago I had never heard of that either. Not until I saw her concert at The Sage with Rachel Newton last summer.

Tonight she plays solo, in a gig that lasts around an hour and a quarter. And although a streamed gig will never sound like real live music, this one sounded pretty much perfect, and the closeness of the camera lets us look down at her fingers playing the (flat, horizontal) instrument much better than a typical live viewing angle could.

And her fingers are phenomenal. The qanun is played with all ten fingers that pluck and strum 72 strings and flip levers to change scales almost faster than the eye can follow. So fast that the HD video stream can barely keep up. I am in awe of all musicians anyway, but every now and then one comes along whose dexterity seems superhuman, and Maya Youssef is one of those.

But it's not all about showing off speed like some metal guitar shredder; there is beauty and emotion in all of her music. Most of the pieces she plays are her own compositions, plus a couple of other Syrian tunes, and she gives you a story behind every one. And there's much depth of feeling in them ... by the time we reach Bombs Turn Into Roses I'm an emotional wreck.

And even though we're all in different rooms, she's aware of her audience too, chats to us as though we were really there, thanks us for being there, and lets us see how the support makes her feel. She makes the atmosphere feel as close to real gig as she can, despite the circumstances.

This is really an exceptional musician. Best concert I've ever seen.