Michigan Heritage Awards
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John Hanna Sarweh
Photo by Bill Lockwood
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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