Maya Youssef, hailed as ‘The queen of the qanun,’ is a globally renowned and award-winning qanun player and composer from Syria. Born in Damascus, as a result of the war in her home country, Maya’ arrived in the UK in 2012 under the UK Government’s Tier 1 visa scheme, endorsed by Arts Council England as an Exceptional Talent. Since then, Maya has not only pushed the boundaries of the qanun (a traditional 78-stringed zither traditionally played by men) but also graced prestigious venues, including South Bank, BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, The Barbican, Shakespeare’s Globe, and WOMAD Festival.
Maya has collaborated with Damon Albarn (Blur/Gorillaz) and recorded for the documentary ‘The Beatles & India’ at Abbey Road Studios. Her debut album, Syrian Dreams (a prayer for peace), was produced by esteemed Joe Boyd (Nick Drake et al) and released by Harmonia Mundi. The album received critical acclaim from the media. “Exquisite… a powerful homage, twists Arabic music cliches,” The Guardian. “An album of skill and power… a dizzying sweep of genres from flamenco to jazz. A transportive cinematic listen,” The Musician Magazine. Syria Dreams won the German Record Critics’ Award and the Songlines Music Award. This led to many UK and international sold-out concerts
Maya was awarded a PRS Women Make Music Grant and an Arts Council England Project Grant towards recording her second album, “Finding Home”, which was released March 25th, 2022.
The album received 5-star reviews from international and UK press and was nominated for the prestigious German Record Critics’ Award. In September 2022 “Finding Home” was no.1 in the Transglobal World Music Chart; In December, it was named one of Songlines’ top 4 albums of 2022.
Alongside the composition and performance aspects of her career, Maya is also an accomplished and skillful educator, leading her own online qanun academy with students from around the world, contributing to a wide array of learning and engagement opportunities through lectures, conferences, workshops, and broadcasts.
Maya’s compositions, recordings, performances, and life story have been extensively reviewed, and she is a frequent broadcaster. Her website, mayayoussef.com, provides a comprehensive archive, along with more detailed biographical information, audio, and video content.