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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

28 March 2022
An episode of the The Siwan Project podcast presenting the history of Muslim Iberia and featuring Prof. Amira K. Bennison, Professor in the History and Culture of the Maghrib, has just been released on Spotify.

This series is all about the work of Siwan, an orchestra formed by Norwegian keyboardist and composer Jon Balke. It accompanies the release of their third studio album, Hafla. Siwan celebrates coexistence and cooperation. It is inspired by the culture and poetry of al-Andalus, the Muslim-ruled area that spanned what is now modern Spain and parts of Portugal. The orchestra looks back into history as well as forwards towards new models for shared endeavour. Though ostensibly contemporary, its musical roots are deep as well as diverse, and are shaped by players with strikingly different backgrounds and experiences.

The Siwan Project unpacks the work of the orchestra and examines its influences in more detail. It looks at the history which helped inspire Siwan's inception and the poetry of al-Andalus that forms the basis of its lyrics. It explores how the orchestra operates, reveals its creative process, and introduces us to the musicians who make it possible. You'll hear from historians and archaeologists who paint a vivid picture of this Islamic Golden Age in which Muslims, Jews and Christians appear to have lived in relative harmony. And we hear from members of the orchestra who share their own experiences and musical journeys.

To find out more about Siwan visit their website which has information about their upcoming tour.

Episode Description

In this first episode we’ll learn some of the rich history that inspired the orchestra and what makes the stories from al-Andalus such captivating ones. We hear from historian Dr Amira Bennison, Professor in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge, Jon Balke, the creator of The Siwan Project and archaeologist Dr José Cristobal Carvajal López, lecturer at the University of Leicester.

This series was narrated and produced by Emily Naylor.

Listen on Spotify.