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Michigan Heritage Awards

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Photo of John Hanna Sarweh playing the Kanoun
Photo by Bill Lockwood

John Hanna Sarweh
2008 awardee, Fraser (Macomb County), Kanoun

John Sarweh is a virtuoso musician with a profound and extensive knowledge of Arabic music. In Syria he studied at the Oriental Institute of Music and apprenticed with a local instrument maker to learn to build and repair kanouns, known in the United States as an Arab zither. After his studies, he became the assistant director of the music department, a conductor, and celebrated kanoun artist at Jordan's Oriental Radio.

As an educator, John Sarweh is considered a master instructor on the 'ud (Arabic lute, sometimes also referred to as an oud), violin, voice, and especially the kanoun. He is also an authority on Arabic music theory. John is a highly regarded instrument maker and crafted a special kanoun for both the Michigan State University Museum and the Detroit Institute of Art.
John left Syria for Canada in 1974 and settled in Michigan in 1993. From a family of musicians well known for maintaining traditional music, John continues this mission and, at any given time, he has about 30 students. In 2005 he was awarded a Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship to teach the kanoun, and in 2007 he received the Golden 'Ud Award from the Arab American Arts Institute for "carrying the torch and inspiring a whole generation in the classical Arabic music." That same year the Arab American and Chaldean Council honored John with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his "outstanding dedication and service in the field of music." John frequently plays with the Dearborn Traditional Ensemble.

John Hanna Sarweh is honored with a Michigan Heritage Award for his exceptional and masterful artistry on the kanoun and for his dedication to the maintenance of Arab music and playing the kanoun through his teaching.

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