Baguio City—A Palestinian oud player just ended his two-monthlong sojourn to Europe and Asia with performances at the Tam-awan artist village and a restobar over the weekend, which included a lesson in playing Cordilleran nose flutes from a well-revered local musician.
Thirty-three-year-old music teacher George Kandalaft amused patrons at the Tam-awan Village Café as he provided an hour-long musical display of sheer talent playing Arabic tunes, his own improvisations, and the popular Game of Thrones theme to cap off his two-month journey.
Armed with a short-neck oud, a musical instrument akin to the European lute, Kandalaft tried to capture the feeling of a mix of the audience at the artist village, which was drenched with rain brought about by the monsoon’s downpour and the previous Tropical Storm Ineng on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
“Will try to capture your [feelings, and those of mine], under this rain,” the Palestinian declared, who has released original and improvised music while teaching oud playing in Israel.
The oudis a short-neck type of lute, which is a pear-shaped stringed instrument with 11 or 13 strings.
“All I want to do is promote Arabic music and fuse it with [modern world tunes]” said Kandalaft, who has been playing professionally at 16.
The Palestinian traveler learned to play oud as a two-year-old in his hometown of Nazareth, making him a town mate of Jesus. But he has since moved to the more popular city of Jerusalem to pursue his dream of playing and promoting world peace.
He studied music at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as well as music therapy at the University of Haifa.
As a music teacher, he is proud of three students who have followed in his footsteps. They are now also playing and teaching oudto a younger generation.
Kandalaft left Israel on June 21 for Italy and found his way to Greece, then in Thailand. He set foot in the Philippines late last month, where he stayed in the cities of General Santos, Davao, Cebu, Puerto Princesa and, finally, in Laoag, Ilocos Norte.
The Palestinian musician finally arrived in “cooler” Baguio City, where he was met by torrential rain, as well as a priest, Father Earle Cuna, who served as his guide.
In all the places he went, Kandalaft mixed adventure with the wonders of human companionship and sharing, especially in the aspect of culture.
The musician-traveler explored the mountains, as well as the seas, being a licensed scuba diver in Israel.
He played oud in a Las Piñas City church, where parishioners accorded him with a certificate of appreciation.
In Laoag City, he played for schoolchildren who sang the popular hit “Buwan,” with his accompaniment that drew cheers among the audience. The song has become his favorite Filipino ditty since he heard the kids sing such.
Kandalaft’s two-month journey was documented in the Lonely Traveler, which is actually his fourth being in Tam-awan.
He also displayed his familiarity with popular culture, being well versed in pop music by playing the Game of Thrones theme during performances.
Kalinga-born Ben Sokkong, formerly of the University of the Philippines and is now a music teacher at the University of Baguio, later met with Kandalaft at Tam-awan to share notes on their music. Each tried a hand on their instrument of choice.
He summed up his sojourn by saying, “[The Philippines] is such a beautiful place, and wonderful to experience.”
Image credits: Pigeon Lobien/PNA