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Before War, A Punk Drummer Preserved Syrian Chants

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Before War, A Punk Drummer Preserved Syrian Chants

Music Interviews

Before War, A Punk Drummer Preserved Syrian Chants

Before War, A Punk Drummer Preserved Syrian Chants

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/338586411/338636125" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Between 2006 and 2010, Jason Hamacher made many trips to Syria to photograph and record ancient chants. Jason Hamacher/Lost Origins Productions hide caption

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Jason Hamacher/Lost Origins Productions

Between 2006 and 2010, Jason Hamacher made many trips to Syria to photograph and record ancient chants.

Jason Hamacher/Lost Origins Productions

Before the civil war in Syria destroyed ancient religious sites — and scattered some of the oldest Christian communities in the world — Jason Hamacher made several trips there, taking photos and recording ancient Sufi and Christian chants.

The project got its start when Hamacher read in a book about "the world's oldest Christian music." He tracked down From the Holy Mountain author William Dalrymple, who told him there were no recordings of the music — and that "it's not a monastery in the desert; it is a Syrian Orthodox church in the middle of the city of Aleppo." Hamacher ended up staying at that church as a guest of the archbishop, who has since been kidnapped by rebels.

As Hamacher tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross, he is planning a series of albums called Sacred Voices of Syria. The first, which was released this summer on his own Lost Origin Productions, is called Nawa: Ancient Sufi Invocations and Forgotten Songs From Aleppo. Hamacher isn't coming at this from the perspective of a musicologist, or as a member of a religious community. He's a drummer who's played in several punk bands in the Washington, D.C., area, including Frodus, Decahedron and Regents. You can hear their conversation at the audio link.