The Alwan Arab Music Ensemble
Classical, folk, and popular Arab music featuring vocalists George Ziadeh and Lubana Al Quntar
Two Rivers Arab Jazz Ensemble
Contemporary cross-cultural musical fusions
Traditional & Modern Arab Dance
Dance across continents and cultures
Six contemporary masters of a broad range of Arab musical idioms display their seasoned sensibilities and impressive technique across a diverse array of musical selections from regional folk songs to masterpieces of Egyptian cinema and Arab concert hall culture. Their performance evokes ambiances of Cairo, Baghdad, al-Quds and Aleppo, and also that of contemporary New York with its own vibrant Arab-American artistic and intellectual community.
George Ziadeh was born in Birzeit, Palestine, and pursued music from a young age. In 1986 he moved to the United States, where he has studied oud with Simon Shaheen and classical singing and voice with Youssef Kassab. George is considered an authority on maqam theory and Arab classical repertoire.
Since training at conservatories across the globe, Lubana Al Quntar has become a renowned singer of Operatic and Arab musical styles. She is professor of Arabic and Operatic Voice at the High Institute of Music in Damascus, where she founded the first Classical Arab singing group. She has been awarded numerous international prizes and has participated in a number of master classes around the world, most importantly with Riccardo Muti in Malta and Daniel Barenboim in Berlin. Lubana has toured extensively throughout Europe and recently relocated to the United States.
New York based composer, trumpet player and singer and santur player in the Iraqi Maqam tradition, Amir ElSaffar has devoted himself both to jazz and the urban art music heritage of Iraq forging new pathways between the two. From commissions and residencies within the cutting edge new music scenes in North American and Europe to film scores to extended musical sojourns in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Azerbaijan, Amir has opened up new spaces for the exploration of composition and improvisation, tradition and innovation.
New York based Palestinian-American Zafer Tawil is a virtuosic performer on the oud, violin, qanun and a full range of Arab percussion instruments. He has performed with numerous musicians ranging from Sting to Arab music greats such as Simone Shaheen, Chab Mami, and Bassam Saba to avant-garde composer/performer Elliot Sharpe, among others. Zafer has composed music for a number of films including the Oscar-nominated Jonathan Demme film Rachel Getting Married.
Sami Abu Shumays, is an accomplished violinist and vocalist in the modern pan-Arab maqam tradition and founder and director of the ensemble Zikrayat, a tight knit, small scale Arabic orchestra devoted to original reinterpretations of the iconic, post-Ottoman popular repertoire of early- to mid- 20th Century Egypt and the Levant.
Johnny Farraj has studied riqq (Egyptian tambourine) and frame drum with Karim Nagi and Fairuz's percussionist Michel Merhej, both featured in Brooklyn Maqam. He also studied oud with Simon Shaheen and Bassam Saba, and classical Arab singing with Rima Khcheich and Youssef Kassab. As a percussionist, he has performed with Simon Shaheen/ Qantara and Amir ElSaffar, and attends the Arabic Music Retreat annually.
Rami El Aasser plays worldwide with Raquy & the Cavemen, AlSarah & the Nubatones, Zikrayat, Cafe Antarsia Ensemble, and has opened for recording artists including Ani Difranco, K'naan, and Mos Def. He is a regular at NYC's taraab and dance parties with traditional musicians from across the Middle East. Based in New York with roots in Egypt, his repertoire includes classical and folk traditions from the Arab World, Greece, Balkans, Turkey, East and North Africa, and Ladino traditions. Rami's grooves also can be found on many recordings, soundtracks, and live theatre productions. Rami composes and records the entire percussion section in tracks, playing tabla aka darbuka, riq, deff, clay tiblas, djembe, toumbak, and sagat.
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This ensemble began in 2006, when ElSaffar composed Two Rivers, a suite of compositions combining elements of the Iraqi Maqam tradition with Jazz. This was among the first works in the jazz tradition to explore the microtonality of Maqam on such an in-depth level. The 2007 release, Two Rivers (Pi), received much acclaim, and Allmusic.com called it “as impressive a debut as we’ve had in America in the 21st century.” In the following years, ElSaffar continued to extend his compositional palette, creating a microtonal harmonic and melodic language that combines the pitch-flexibility of Middle Eastern music with jazz harmony. He composed another work, Inana, that has further expanded the sonic possibilities of jazz. The 2011 release of Inana received 4.5 stars from Allmusic and Downbeat, and was named #1 Jazz Album of 2011 in Time Out Chicago.
The Two Rivers Arab Jazz Ensemble includes Nasheet Waits, one of the most dynamic drummers in jazz who is best known as a mainstay in Jason Moran’s Bandwagon; bassist Carlo DeRosa, whose CD Brain Dance was released earlier this year to considerable acclaim; multi-instrumentalist and virtuoso Zafer Tawil who is one of the most in-demand Arab musician in New York; and tenor saxophonist Ole Mathisen, who has been active on the New York scene for almost 20 years in a wide assortment of contexts including Persian, Indian and Latin music, and is one of few musicians to have mastered microtonal playing on the saxophone.
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Ramzi Edlibi (dancer, choreographer, musician) began his study of Arab dance and ballet at an early age in Lebanon with Wadia Jarrar and Mr. Caracalla, historic figures in the development of Lebanese dance for the stage. In addition to Edlibi’s formal training, social dances and music, such as debkah, were a part of everyday and night life. Edlibi went on to perform dance with the leading vocalists and dance companies of the Arab World such as Fairuz, Sabah, Wadi Al-Safi and Caracalla Dance Theatre. He then traveled abroad to perform and teach,while civil war raged in Lebanon, learning other dance traditions along the way. Since establishing himself in the global city of New York, Eldibi has continued his dance career, researching and presenting dances and music of the world. Edlibi is Artistic Director of Dance Around the World, an Arts in Education program that brings dance and music to public schools.
Carrie Ahern is an acclaimed dance and performance artist based in New York. Her dance work involves extensive research and has taken the form of installations specific to their environment. Sensate, which began as collaboration with Nietzsche scholars, premiered in November 2009. Ahern’s collaborative installation with sculptor Olek premiered at The LAB. Commissions for her work include Danspace Project for The Unity of Skin (2008) and Red (2006)—also commissioned by the Guggenheim for Works-and-Process. Nationally and internationally, her work has been presented at Baltimore Theatre Project, Danceworks and Walker’s Point Arts Center in Milwaukee, Le Regard du Cygne in Paris and at the Festival OFF in Avignon, France. Ahern has taught at the University of Washington and master classes in improvisation at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
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