The nay to break the silence cycle

I have been meaning to write for quite some time, and ideas are piling up in the draft section of this blog without ever having a chance to click on the “publish post” icon. I came back to London a couple of days ago and have been overwhelmed by a new event that will come to form a lifetime reality. I will be staying here for a week or so and then move back to Beirut for good. Well enough of my personal life, the important thing here is the function I have assigned to myself that is writing when I feel certain things need to be pointed out. When I was in Beirut, there were many things I found interesting to develop but either did not have time to talk about or preferred to keep it for the thesis. My main problem is to choose between ideas that should be developed further, those that could be irrelevant in the context of this blog, and those that I simply want to keep for myself for now.

So “without further due” I would like to share with you an anecdote to break the silence cycle. When I was in Lebanon sometimes after the new year, I went to see Atef Wehbe, a nay maker who is from Saksakieh a village in the south that lies next to the coast a bit before Sour. I play the nay myself (it is a reed wind instrument you can find in the Middle East and a bit in Central Asia), and I always go to Atef to try out and buy new instruments. In any case at some point, I was showing him my new Persian nay that I acquired from an Iranian musician living in London. Iranian nays are slightly different. First of all they have 6 instead of 7 hole, you blow in them with your teeth and tongue rather than with your lips as the arabic and the turks would have it, and a bunch of other differences. Among other things, I was telling him that I learned that Iranians sometimes dip their nay in boiling oil in order to strengthen their wood and give it a dark color. To this he answered with disdain that “they don’t know sh.. about nays”, in a nice impulsive and straightforward manner. And then he backed it up by explaining to me why this would cause harm to the instrument.

Of course this does not mean that the guy has disdain for Iranian neys or let alone Iranians; he personally knows how to play the Persian way although does not play anything from the Persian repertoire. His answer was at best an instinctive defensive answer that basically said implicitly it is here that you can find the best nays. And in effect Atef is probably one of the best nay maker in the Middle East but that’s besides the point.

I remember how once I asked Atef who did he consider himself to be with politically, given the fact that their village has equal amount of Amal and Hizbullah flags/posters. He gave this enigmatic and yet easy and correct response: “Ya Bashir, all the south is resistance, but I don’t follow political interests, I’m a musician”. I loved how he would wrap my newly acquired nays in Amal’s newspaper Al ‘Awasif (the Storms). During the latest Israeli war, Atef got a nice Israeli bomb in his garden, where some of his reeds grow. Fortunately enough, the family was safe but had to escape somewhere in the Bekaa.

I leave you now to connect the nods.


4 Replies to “The nay to break the silence cycle”

  1. Hi, could you share Atef’s contact number . I am an Indian living in Dubai. I play the Indian Bansuri. Wanted to try a Ney. Out of experience with Bansuri, I know how important buying a well tuned instrument is. Looking forward to your help.

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