The overcast of muted grays with slivers of sunlight fighting its way through a light fog created a haunting affect that anywhere else may have felt ominous but there, in the Quarter, it just added charm and it felt right. It was a particularly balmy July day in New Orleans and my skin was covered in a thin sheen of moisture. I was walking down Royal, taking in the sights and smells (not all of them pleasant), stopping to glance in the many gallery windows when the faint melodic notes drifted into my ears. It was enchanting and in that moment I was not only stopped in my tracks but also driven forward, needing to find the source of such beautiful music.
It was as if I wasn’t in control of my own self. I was being drawn and pulled toward this instant connection and I couldn’t get there fast enough. As I approached St. Anthony’s Garden the music became louder and I knew it was coming from Jackson Square. I turned down Pirates Alley (Pere Antoine Alley) and made my way to the front of St. Louis Cathedral. As the alley opened up into the square, there they were. Wael and Anna, two violinists, playing for a crowd that was quickly gathering. I found a spot directly in front of them and sat on the steps of the Cathedral. The steps felt like molten lava and practically burned my skin but I didn’t care. I was completely mesmerized and everything around me faded to black except for the two of them and the music they were creating.
The two of them bring fire… It is pure magic that they create together. Magic that pours out of the tips of their fingertips as they alternate between using the violin as a fiddle to strum the delicate strings and then taking the bow and effortlessly gliding it over the Bout of the violin. The music easily brings every possible emotion to the surface as they play. As I sat there I felt everything from happiness to sorrow. Certain notes brought a smile to my face while others tugged at the strings to my heart. I felt every part of their music and it was hypnotizing. When you hear a song on the radio (a song with lyrics) and you are moved by it and maybe even the song gives you chills, that’s how you know it’s a great song. But when you are able to experience all of those same reactions including a deep emotional connection to music without that lyrical element, that is a feat that is unparalleled; a feat that cannot be matched. That is exactly what Wael and Anna’s music is, unparalleled. Their sound is so unique and it resonated with every part of my being.
The music wasn’t the only spell bounding pull during their set. The two of them as individuals, as one, was just as intoxicating. They have this chemistry and otherworldly connection that emanated from them. Their passion just poured out into the square and filled the surrounding area. Watching them both as they play is like watching a story come to life. Anna’s face lights up with every emotion, every nuance she experiences when she plays. You can see the lines of passion and love etched into her face with every note she plays and it is honestly quite beautiful to watch. She pours her soul into every note and it is captivating. Then there is Wael. Wael plays with such grace and his movements are soft and fluid. He is calm as he plays but the confidence pours out of him and into each note he brings to life. The two of them are separate but they blend together into one powerful duo and it is impossible to walk away from them as they play.
I stayed for their entire set and when they finished I was a little more than disappointed. I could have sat there all day and well into the night. I spoke with Wael briefly and he was very kind and open. He asked about the photos I took and I asked him about their music and how often they played in New Orleans. He told me they are there a lot but that they also travel and play other places. I made sure to tip them and took note of their website so that I could purchase their CD’s and hopefully stay up to date on their endeavors.
I was moved that day in Jackson Square. Something shifted for me, something that started shifting long ago but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was until I heard them play. Call it an Awakening if you will, but I knew I would never be the same. I was completely humbled by their talent and I think the world needs to know who they are.
If life changing music is your thing you should check out their website here: https://waelannamia.com/
They also have a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Waelviolin/
Thank you Wael and Anna for sharing your magic with me. I will be back in the Quarter before long and hope to see you again.
R. L. Taylor