About George DiMItri Sawa

George Sawa was born in Alexandria, Egypt. He has over 50 years experience in Arabic music performance, history and theory and has performed and lectured extensively worldwide: Canada, USA, Brazil, Mexico, Europe (Spain, Italy, Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Greece) and the Middle East (Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates). He studied piano with Mme Irene Drakides, herself a student of the famed educator Alfred Cortot. He studied qanun, theory and voice at the Higher Institute of Arabic Music. After immigrating to Canada, he studied ethnomusicology at the University of Toronto, and obtained his doctorate in historical Arabic musicology. He has taught graduate and undergraduate courses on medieval, modern, and religious music of the Middle East at the University of Toronto and at York University. He is the author of Music Performance Practice in the Early cAbbasid Era. 132-320 AH/750-932 AD; Rhythmic Theories and Practices in Arabic Writings to 339AH/950 CE (Ottawa: The Institute of Mediaeval Music, 2004 and 2009); An Arabic Musical and Socio-Cultural Glossary of Kitab al-Aghani (The Book of Songs) of al-Isfahani (d. 971) (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2015); Erotica, Love and Humor in Arabia. Spicy Stories from The Book of Songs by al-Isfahani (Jefferson North Carolina, McFarland and Company, Inc., Publihsers, 2016). He has published over 50 articles on Arabic music in refereed journals and encyclopedias, and is frequently invited to give lectures and concerts worldwide. In 2005, he received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the Egyptian Ministry of Culture for his research in Arabic music history. George has been the musical director for several productions of the Toronto-based Arabesque Dance Company, and taught hundreds of dancers at the Arabesque Academy and Hannan's Bellydance Studio in Toronto, as well as studios in Canada, USA, Brazil and Mexico. His CD, The Art of the Early Egyptian Qanun, Vol. 1, was nominated for a JUNO Award in World Music in 2009. A subsequent volume, The Art of the Early Egyptian Qanun, Vol. 2, was released in 2009. His Egyptian Music Appreciation and Practice for Bellydancers has won international acclaim and is an invaluable - one of a kind - companion to bellydancers all over the world (it is also available in Chinese, French, Greek, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, German and Portuguese). A companion set of two DVDs produced with Lulu Hartenbach in Brazil includes over 50 tracks of dancing instruction from his CDs and book: Lulu and George Dimitri Sawa. Apreciacao da Musica Arabe Para Bailarinas. Teoria e Practica. 2 vols. Sao Paulo: Ventreoteca. Produzido por Kaleidoscopio de Ideias. Shimmie, 2015. Presently he is working on a book of translated anecdotes from The Book of Songs of al-Isfahani, it will be published by E.J. Brill in 2017.


View George's Complete Musical History and Works Here.


Alpharabius is an ensemble dedicated to exploring the musical interactions of the rich cultures of the Mediterranean. The group is named after one of the great philosophers of classical Islam, al-Farabi (d. ah 339/ ad 950), who was renowned as both a musical theorist and a practising musician; the medieval West knew him by the Latin version of his name, Alpharabius. The ensemble is a collaboration of musicians trained in the classical Arabic and Western medieval musical traditions.

Alpharabius respects these individual traditions and believes that bringing them into proximity illuminates both, revealing connections, suggesting affinities, and clarifying differences. Together the performers interpret mystical Sufi music from the Ottoman court of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and classical and traditional Syrian and Egyptian songs of love, interwoven with troubadour poetry, Spanish devotional songs of the thirteenth century, and fourteenth-century dances tinged with the flavour of Italy’s trade with Alexandria and Damascus.

The voices of our ancestors should not be forgotten, for as they sang to one another so might they yet sing and teach us.