My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Abu Shady, the last of Syria's traditional storytellers still tells his tales

One of our many reasons for coming to Syria this time was to interview Abu Shady, the last of the hakawati, or traditional storytellers. We last interviewed him almost two and half years ago when we were here to update our Lonely Planet Syria and Lebanon guidebook - that's the 'current' edition every Western traveller is clutching in their hands here now. (We're not using it ourselves - nor are we using any other guidebook - there's no need obviously after so many trips here, but it's interesting to see how many people have a guidebook *and* a guide - very different to last time when there were far more independent travellers around. Why people need help ordering a meal, I'll never know, but it's something I'm going to ponder in another post.) When we last spoke to Abu Shady he was conscious of his age, depressed that numbers of people attending his performances at Al Nawfara cafe in Damascus' Old City were dwindling, his biggest competition being cinema, TV and the internet, and was grooming his son to take over after he died. Ironically, now his nightly performances are packed (people even phone to book tables) and storytelling is more popular than ever (in line with a resurgence of interest by Syrians in everything old), yet he no longer wants his son to take over. Why? Because the pay is lousy. I guess there's a point artists reach when they're no longer prepared to go hungry (or allow their family to go hungry) for their art. I'll pop up the link to our story soon.


Fly Girl said...

Hi Lara, I think people are comforted by guidebooks. They provide ideas and suggestions for unfamiliar places and activities. Buying a guidebook used to be my first step in travel planning before I became a travel writer. I don't use them anymore, I find blogs and websites more engaging but I understand their appeal. As for Abu Shady, I'm very interested in learning about Syrian storytelling traditions. Are they like griots? Do they use poems or songs? Is he not concerned about the tradition dying if his son doesn't continue it?

jessiev said...

i would love to see one of his performances. too bad he can't have a website and videos! :) there we go again, wishing for MORE media instead of less.

glad you got to see him! and, that the shows are packed.

Anonymous said...

Hey there, I saw and met Abu Shady and his son and the cafe was packed everytime I went, mostly just for his stories.

Here is a video of him on youtube: