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Music Talks > 2017 Winter

Music Club: Wednesday 1 March 2017 (7:00 - 8:30 pm)

Speaker: Dr. Sami Kawas

Title: Four Jazz Pianists that have Influenced Me
Scott Joplin
Art Tatum
Erroll Garner
Earl "Fatha" Hines

Language: English / (supported by Arabic)

Profile of the talk:
As you can see below, Dr. Sami Kawas is an accomplished pianist and Jazz lover. In this evening, he will present to us video clips and commentary about 4 jazz pianists that have been of great influence on his life and playing.

Dr. Sami Kawas

Sami Kawas was born in the early sixties. His father, was a former judge, president of the criminal court in Lebanon. His mother was a diplomat in the ministry of foreign affairs in Sweden. Despite that his vocation was inclined towards medicine since the age of six, he already displayed a huge interest in diverse art fields, such as literature, drawing, photography, choir singing and piano playing.

He inherited his musical talents from his family. In fact, his younger brother played the guitar in a band. His father played the violin in his adolescence, whose sister was an advanced classical pianist. His Swedish mother also played advanced classical piano, and she was his first piano teacher. Her father played entertaining accordion, whose sister was also known as an international concert pianist. His younger cousin Hiba Al Kawas, who holds a Master's Degree in opera singing, musicology and composition, is currently a world famous oriental opera singer and composer.

Dr. Kawas began learning to play piano at the age of seven with private teachers at home. He says: "I never remember being forced to play the piano; I always loved to play". Although he never thought of being a professional pianist, he reveals that his ultimate dream is to settle down on musical innovation and start publishing his own compositions when he retires from medicine. He declares: "Then, I will have more time to play and practice on the piano and keyboard, just like my friend (the late) Dr. Ernest Majdalani."

Sami Kawas currently likes to play "golden age" Crooner and Latino style music from 1935-1945. He shifted from classical music to contemporary swing and early jazz since the age of 12 years. He was very much influenced by the flamboyant piano styling of Carmen Cavallaro, Peter Nero, Robert Valentino and Liberace. Since there were no music books to learn from in Lebanon, as well as no internet or YouTube, he began learning to play by ear whatever he heard in a cassette, and could play them on the piano in any of the twelve keys. He confessed: "classical music was an essential prerequisite to strengthen the left hand chording and to build up the agility of the arpeggios in the right hand".

Since his pre-adolescence, he was already performing classical piano nearly every year on TV (during the black and white days). By the later school years, he has participated in a few concerts in Lebanon. When he became a medical student, he played in two band groups, OUT OF TUNE (rock) and INDEX (jazz), and was also the president of the music club at the American University of Beirut. Later on, while still studying medicine, he played for fun in several restaurants such as Summerland piano bar, Le Temple, Centre Sofil and Smuggler's Inn. He also had a music pop band in Sweden, composed of five live artists.

These days, Dr. Kawas formed two groups, Ray and Sam (for crooner latino style music) and The Groovers (for swing and pop music), and has played with singers (for fun) in a multitude of places such as Razz'zz, Kudeta, Deir Kalaa Country Club, Al Boustan etc. During his free time, he enjoys transcribing the famous tunes of known jazz artists as played in life concerts, and to rewrite each instrument in his Finale music notation software. Then he converts these data to MIDI files which can reproduce the same concert in his Yamaha Tyros keyboard while he plays the piano!

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