Jason Hamacher: hXc attaché to ancient Syria

Photo courtesy of the artist
Jason Hamacher at the ruins of Ain Dara | Photo courtesy of the artist / Lost Origin Productions

Whether documentarian/drummer/massage therapist Jason Hamacher is rhapsodizing about Minor Threat and the Teen Idles or kicking some deep knowledge about the Gnostic origins of ancient Syriac chants, he does so with the same mix of startling scholarship and infectious exuberance.

Hamacher grew up the Headbanger’s Ball-watching middle son of a Southern Baptist minister in Satellite Beach, Florida before moving to the D.C. area in 1992. He cut his milk teeth in knotty 90s post-hardcore trio Frodus—touring with a pre-Shellback Refused in ’98—before going on to play in Decahedron with Fugazi bassist Joe Lally, and Tampa grind militia Combatwoundedveteran.

Hamacher’s decade-long Sacred Voices of Syria project began when he discovered that the world’s oldest Christian music had gone undocumented. In 2005, the Syrian Orthodox Church, one of the earliest Christian communities, granted Hamacher permission to record their oldest chant traditions. Over six years and several trips, he documented the ancient prayers, hallowed rituals, and sacred spaces of Syria.

Hamacher is bringing a showcase of his project to The Rotunda on Monday, and I spoke to him about the roots of community expression, guerilla-style ethnomusicology, and the lasting cultural impact of his endeavors. Continue reading →