«My life is music, all the rest are the details»
I came across his photo on the Internet – a teenager, playing the violin inside the cabin of a passenger aircraft, an unusual photo for sure. Just a few clicks mores on the mouse – and on my screen came some more truly interesting information. It induced me "to go on the trail," and to establish a contact with the person of this unusual picture.
I learned that at 2 years old he could read, and by three – became attached to music, and now, at seventeen, confidently he entered the world of high-class music with his reassurance that ‘true happiness is to make others happy’. Later, my acquaintance with the young talent took me to Windsor, England where I intentionally stayed for a few days during my trip to Russia, in order to prepare a series of materials for my work.
We talked while playing a serious game of chess. Aleem told me that he is taking lessons from Eugene Grach, a famous Russian pedagogue, and that in his spare time he likes swimming and readily participates in charity swimming events on the River Thames. Five miles down the Thames in April - is probably not a trifle, but according to Aleem, this is the case where the final result justifies the means: the money is intended for cancer hospitals. I discovered that at school he enjoys subjects like science, literature and languages. "I think I could go on to Oxford or Harvard after graduation from school, but I can imagine myself only as a musician. My life is music, all the rest are the details ", explains Aleem.
When Aleem was born, his parents – an author, filmmaker and composer Mohydeen Quandour and the well known Circassian poet Luba Balagova lived in Moscow . "My grandmother, Marie Hazhesmelovna - is an educated erudite. Thanks to her, I learned to read at a very early age”. said Aeem. I enjoyed listening to the story of his mother, Luba, about how her young son first showed interest in music, and once again I was convinced that one couldn’t become a musician; one must be born as one. "Whenever he heard a classical music, the little boy would stand on his tiptoes, and, grasping something to help him stand, he would freeze - he listened to the music standing that way, and I was afraid that he could not remain standing long in this position, because he had just learned to stand”, says Luba. “And one night when I went to his room to put him to bed, I saw that my baby was asleep, embracing an old violin, which once his father played. Mohydeen as a young boy had also studied the violin. It was very touching ... I regret that I did not photograph it then”. From that day Aleem slept only with a violin next to him, and asked not to remove it even after he was asleep. He had been three years old by then. "
Luba decided that such an early interest in music is an omen, and found in Amman, to which their family had moved by then, a teacher, with a good Russian music background. The teacher confirmed the special abilities of the boy, but refused to teach him – he was way too young. But his father wouldn’t think so. He put the violin on Aleem’s shoulder and was giving him very short basic lessons. Therefore when his father decided that Aleem is ready after three years of basic instruction, he met again with the professional violin teacher. In parallel with his primary school studies, Aleem was sent to the Amman Music Conservatory. He soon won the First Prize of The International Mozart Competition, and at age of 7 played a solo on the stage with the Chamber Orchestra of the European Union at the famous Amman Citadel with an elite VIP audience.
I must say that the violin is not the main passion of Arab boys, and music is not considered as an appropriate future carrier for a young Arab boy. But Aleem announced at his elementary school that he would be a professional musician. Not surprisingly his peers did not miss the opportunity to tease him. "Children will always find, what to dislike you for: being a foreigner, or because you have other interests, or simply for different looks. And I was all of that", says Aleem.
But these childhood memories are not causing him any more grief. The tension in the school continued until one of his classmates, quite an athletic Arab kid, who was revered by his classmates for his physical strength visited Aleem and tried to play the violin. "I did not know that moving a bow over the strings would be so hard", he admitted. “We became good friends, because he started respecting me for what I do”.
Professionals started talking about the rare gift of the boy musician, and his parents began to use every opportunity to let him take lessons from Moscow violin teachers. Following their advice the family decided to bring their son to Europe in order to give him a good musical education. In England, Aleem auditioned for the three most prestigious music schools in the country and was accepted to all of them. Expressing admiration for his talent, the three schools offered him scholarships. His parents decided on the Purcell school - in addition to a solid musical education it provides students with a good academic education. A new country and a new school left an unforgettable impression on the ten-year old. Here he was finally appreciated for the very things that he was not loved for in his elementary school in Amman. "It's good that here I can do music and nobody finds it odd", shared Aleem, after his first month in the new school.
While I was staying with the Quandour family, Aleem received a gift for his sixteenth birthday – an expensive violin case given by Kate Ford – a member of the famous Ford family. After hearing Aleem a few years earlier playing at the grand Tribute Pavarotti Concert, Mrs. Ford fell in love with the music of the little virtuoso and they became friends. Her interest was quite understandable: after a single joint rehearsals with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra he soloed brilliantly and the performance was recorded and shown on Mezzo Chanel and also on radio FM Classic channels. It happened at Petra, where he shared stage with Sting, Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, Andrea Bochchelli and other great performers of our times. Now, every time Mrs. Ford visits her London residence, she meets with Aleem – by sending for him her limo, fuelling the curiosity of his classmates and teachers.
What does a teenager feel when, after the performance, princes and princesses, ambassadors and famous musicians express their admiration openly to him? How to cope with the excitement before doing interviews with European radio channels, or responding to multiple "Bravo" and "encores"? It is not easy. But why?
"At the last concert at the Whigmore Hall in London, I went out only three times to bow to my audience” says Aleem “to keep the public's attention to himself again and again, even at the request of the audience, is unfair to other performers, who are also talented and hard working. “Plus I know that I am still only learning and there is a long way to go before I become the musician and solo violinist I want to be”
Aleem spent his last summer in Italy and Austria, participating in Schlern and Ost-West Festivals, and in between rehearsals was taking master classes from famous Moscow professors. Then he briefly went to the Caucasus, to Kabarda. That is where many years ago, on the banks of a mountain river, the first poems of his mother, the well-known poet Luba Balagova came to life; the place where his ancestral fathers are buried, the place of the spiritual roots of his family.
After meeting with Aleem, I, once again pondered over the phenomenon of human destiny, and how a talent is conceived; a process as mysterious and incomprehensible, as the Creator himself. I thought that when Aleem takes the stage, and smoothly and confidently glides with the bow across the strings, causing the audience’s delight they could hardly imagine that he is a descendant of the Circassian emigrants of Russia of long ago. The world might not know who the Circassians are… But, perhaps, the sound of his music is cleaner, deeper and has so much feeling because it re-ignites the hope of many broken human lives, unrecognized talents of his homeless nation, which is scattered around the world. Each Diaspora has its own story. Aleem’s story –is one of them.