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Why FEN? //

byMarwa Helal

FEN Magazine - Launch IssueDear Readers,

I want to tell you a story. It’s about FEN and why we need it.

The other night, I attended Kinan Azmeh and Dinuk Wijeratne’s concert, Complex Stories, Simple Sounds. Afterwards, I went out to dinner with them along with Debbie Smith, a local arts producer and Leyya Tawil, a contemporary dancer.

So here I am, with Kinan, a clarinetist who splits his time between Syria and the U.S., and Dinuk, a Sri-Lankan pianist who was raised in Dubai and now lives in Canada. Add to the mix Debbie, an American who knows more than the average Arab about Arabic music of all sorts, and Leyya, a Palestinian/Syrian-American who is the only Arab female contemporary dancer in the U.S. It’s not every night that I get to sit with such a unique and talented group. I’m excited about the potential stories and leads sitting around me and I warn them that I might slip an interview question or two into the evening’s conversation, but before I even get the chance the exchange [as best as I can recall] goes something like this …

Leyya: (talking about her experience teaching and performing contemporary dance in the Middle East, we’re all brainstorming where else she can apply to teach and perform in the future) …yeah, the people of Ramallah were so amazing, I really want to go back.
Kinan: You should try the Damascus Opera House.
Leyya: There’s an opera house in Damascus?
Kinan: This is precisely the problem, no one knows what’s going on in these places…
Me: (Gulp, putting my glass down) Guys, I don’t mean to make a pitch for FEN now [they politely tell me it's okay] but this is exactly why we need FEN, because of this problem. There is a scene, there are opportunities for artists, we just need a better way to find out about them. One of FEN’s missions is to help artists make these connections…

Young Arab-American artists and their audience need a venue to find out what their colleagues are doing, share their work and process, and perhaps even find opportunities for collaboration and mentorship.

FEN puts artists in-the-know, whether it’s about an event or a potential partnership–even the power of one artist to inspire another can’t be underestimated. Some of you say there isn’t a scene. But just because you don’t know what’s going on in Toronto or Ramallah, Beirut, Damascus, or Chicago doesn’t mean there isn’t anything going on.

So let me be the first to tell you: the Arab-American scene is here, right here, it exists, and it is everywhere. If you are reading this you are a part of it. The scene is FEN, and FEN in turn is the scene. Let this be your destination for all things Arab, American and art.

I promise, we won’t let you down.


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