Music News & Reviews

Band speaks to Syrian crisis through music

Bassel & the Supernaturals will perform at First United Methodist Church on Sunday evening.
Bassel & the Supernaturals will perform at First United Methodist Church on Sunday evening. Courtesy photo

Growing up, Bassel Almadani visited Syria regularly. A first-generation Syrian-American, he still had aunts, uncles and cousins in Aleppo, the largest city in the country.

Now he can’t visit the country that’s been locked in civil war for more than five years.

Half of his extended family is still in Aleppo, while others are displaced.

The pain, chaos and other feelings of the crisis have become a part of Almadani’s music, he said, music he’s bringing to Wichita for a second time.

“What’s beautiful about music and art in general is that ability to sort of remove the tension that maybe political conversations create,” Almadani said in a phone interview. “It allows people to humanize a particular subject into personal life.”

Bassel & the Supernaturals will perform at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Wilke Center at First United Methodist Church, 330 N. Broadway.

The ensemble plays neo-soul funk in the jazz-fusion genre. In between playing music, Almadani speaks about the crisis in Syria.

“Lost,” the lead single off the group’s new album, was inspired by the death of Almadani’s cousin Aya Sabbagh.

Sabbagh was a doctoral student studying biology when, on her way to visit her sister in Turkey, the bus she was on was attacked by a sniper, Almadani said. Sabbagh, in her 20s, was one of the casualties.

“The fury of that circumstance ignited the context for ‘Lost.’ In creating that emotional connection to the listener, the song itself is focused more on loss than this particular event,” Almadani said. “We all experience loss in one way or another.”

A Muslim, Almadani said he grew up in a diverse community surrounded by Jewish, Christian and atheist friends. Much of his energy is focused on interfaith efforts to raise awareness for Syria, he said.

Chris Edmiston, who does community engagement with First United Methodist, said the church wanted to bring Bassel & the Supernaturals back for a second time because of their “phenomenal” musicianship as well as their ability to combine the arts with social awareness.

“We saw this as an opportunity to raise awareness to the growing crisis (in Syria),” Edmiston said over the phone. “When it comes to a highly politicized moment, sometimes as Christians we get wrapped up in the politics of it instead of going back to what our faith calls us to do, which is to care for the widow and the orphan and the refugee and tend for their needs.”

Katherine Burgess: 316-268-6400, @KathsBurgess

Bassel & the Supernaturals

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Where: Wilke Center, First United Methodist Church, 330 N. Broadway

Admission: Free

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