Musical Performance: Diverse Traditions: Arab Folk Music in Regional Expression

Sat, March 29, 2008 9:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Brooklyn Arts Council and Brooklyn Maqam


Alwan For The Arts

Saturday, March 29, 9 - 11pm (House Opens 8:30PM)

Alwan for the Arts



Diverse Traditions: Arab Folk Music in Regional Expression

This evening focuses on three varied and distinctive folk traditions found throughout the Arab world; featuring Ahmed Alrodini, accompanied by Isaac Gutwilik, (Yemeni, Red Sea coast); Naji Youssef(Lebanese, jebeli); and Abderahim with Brahim Fribgane and Ahmed Sahel (Moroccan, Berber).


Ahmed Alrodini – oud, percussion,vocals

Singer, percussionist (dumbek, marfa’, Yemeni snare, dof) and oud player, Alrodini was born in Bakat Al Hoddeidah on the Red Sea coast of Yemen. Learning music informally from the time he was a small boy, Alrodini once made himself an oud from found objects including parts of a gas tank from an abandoned truck. By the age of 14, he was singing and playing traditional songs on radio and TV in Sana’a, Yemen’s capital. He first came to the United States in 1988 on a tour with Fouad Al Kibsi and Haifa Omar, prominent Yemeni musicians. Alrodini is one of only a few Brooklyn artists who come from the South/Red Sea area and his expertise in that region’s music is a rarity in New York.

Isaac Gutwilik –percussion

Canadian-born Gutwilik’s interest in music began at a young age when his aunt gave him a Perez Prado album and his own transistor radio. School offered him an immersion into the world of traditional Jewish and Hebrew chanting. While living in Jerusalem, Gutwilik began serious conga studies and became a member of the percussion ensemble at the Rubin Academy of Music. At the same time (1978-80), Isaac became a percussionist for Yemeni choreographer/singer Yitzhak Levy-Awami, with whom he performed Yemeni folk music. Since moving to New York in 1989, Gutwilik has specialized in the traditional Jewish folk music of Yemen. He performs regularly with fellow Brooklyn Maqam artist Ahmed Alrodini.

Abderahim Boutat – loutar, vocals

A Berber Moroccan from the town of Khenifra in the middle Atlas Mountains, Boutat began playing the loutar as young boy in middle school. The loutar, a four stringed skin-faced lute, is among the diverse instrumentation found in Berber music, which also includes bagpipes and oboe. Music is an integral part the extensive history of Berber cultural traditions in North Africa, noted for its use of folk oral traditions, particular scales and rhythmic patterns, which includes pentatonic music and African rhythms. Berber music is still kept alive by traveling Berber musician who perform at weddings and other ceremonial and social events. Boutat began playing at local social events and weddings in Morocco before migrating to Canada, and later settling in New York. He has played in concerts presented by prestigious cultural organizations such as Le Festival du Monde Arabe de Montréal and World Music Institute. In Brooklyn Maqam programming, Boutat will draw from his repertoire of Berber music, accompanied by Brahim Fribgane and Ahmed Sahel on bendir.

Brahim Fribgane – bendir

Born and raised in Morocco, Fribgane grew up surrounded by North African, Gnawa, Berber, Arab and Andalusian music. By 16 he was playing guitar at weddings and parties in Casablanca, where he contributed significantly to the development of a new style of Moroccan pop that took hold in the early 80s. After immigrating to New York, Fribgane began playing the dumbek (goblet drum), which he has innovated to expresses the rhythmic complexities of a drum set with this one instrument. He performs regularly with fellow Moroccan and Brooklyn Maqam artist Malika Zarra at BOOM in the West Village.

Naji Youssef – vocals

The Lebanese-American tenor Naji Youssef was born in the El-Shouf region of Lebanon and immigrated in 1988 to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where he is cantor for the Catholic Melkite Church of the Virgin Mary. The Melkite music tradition includes characteristics such as the ancient Psaltiqua mode of notation and Arab maqamat. Youssef is also a member of Simon Shaheen’s Near Eastern Music Ensemble. Known for his expressive vocal ornamentation, he is a featured singer at local haflat (parties). Youssef’s voice is reminiscent of the Lebanese jabali (mountain) style exemplified by such masters as Wadi’ Assafi. He has mastered many repertoires besides the Melkite hymns, including old poetic singing styles such as mijana, ‘ataba, shruqi and zajal. Naji joins Brooklyn Maqam for two distinct programs to highlight his Lebanese folk repertoire and then to be featured with the Church choir. At Alwan, Youssef will be joined by Maurice Chedid, on oud, Mohamed Abdullah on violin, and Amir Naoum on dumbek.

Last updated: 2008-03-02 11:58:34

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