Among all the musical instruments one could play, Maggie Abi al-Lamaa chose a rare instrument called the Pan flute. She says it allows her to produce melodies that address the themes of love and romance.
Maggie recently won the Said Akl award and has released four albums, the latest of which is called, "La Andam ala Shai". The album includes French and English musical pieces, several of which she chose to film in nature.
Al-Shorfa spoke with Maggie about her passion for this unique musical instrument.
Al-Shorfa: What is the story behind the instrument, and where is it played?
Abi al-Lamaa: This instrument first appeared 3,000 years ago and is linked to Greek mythology. The story deals with a creature so ugly that even his mother is afraid to look at him. He falls in love with a spectacularly beautiful nymph. The more he tries to catch her, the more she flees until she turns into drops of water and then into this instrument that - when he picks it up and blows into it - produces a beautiful melody. The instrument is well-known in South America and Ukraine.
Al-Shorfa: When did you start playing the instrument?
Abi al-Lamaa: The instrument was unknown in Lebanon and in the East. When I was learning to play the guitar and the flute at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik in 1987, I heard by chance a musical piece and the instrument in the piece drew my attention.
When I inquired about it, I was told it was the Pan flute. I finally found it in a Paris music shop in 1992 and felt a strange connection with the instrument, as if I had known it for a long time. I contacted the musician Patrick Kerr Saleh, who gave me my first lessons, which I continued via correspondence between Lebanon and Paris. Then he asked me to join him, and I became the only Lebanese and Arab musician that he mentored. In 1997, I started to introduce audiences to this instrument in concerts, especially at the Jeita Grotto.
Al-Shorfa: Why do you always play at the Jeita Grotto?
Abi al-Lamaa: Actually, the grotto chose me. I typically choose a rock in the middle of the sea to sit on top of and play because this instrument requires a certain atmosphere that I can recreate on stage. But there is nothing more beautiful than to play inside the grotto where water drops meet Jeita's waters.
Al-Shorfa: The Pan flute is made of reed and sometimes out of crystal. What is the difference between the two?
Abi al-Lamaa: The difference lies in the technique, Reed is better to play, but crystal is more beautiful, especially when playing in a place surrounded by water.
Al-Shorfa: Can it be said that the pan flute is known in Lebanon now?
Abi al-Lamaa: To an extent, it is, especially since I give free lessons to students on how to play this instrument.
Al-Shorfa: Said Akl gave you an award named in his honour.
Abi al-Lamaa: There is nothing better than receiving an award from this great poet when you least expect it. All of this happened during an evening performance at the Jeita Grotto, which he attended. After listening to my performance, he immediately decided to give me the award. It is a great honour for me.
Al-Shorfa: You have recently released an album called "La Andam ala Shai'".
Abi al-Lamaa: The album includes 13 musical renditions of famous French and English songs that I played with the pan flute. I [also] filmed each piece as a video clip with natural scenery in the background that is in harmony with the atmosphere that the instrument creates. The album is an invitation for love and a return to romance, which we are missing.
Al-Shorfa: Is there anything in the works for you after this album?
Abi al-Lamaa: I will be working on my album, "Dammat Hilm", which includes musical renditions of songs by Fairuz and some musical pieces for songs by old, forgotten artists including Nahawand. I will also film these songs as video clips.