Musical Performance: Maqam Fest

Fri, January 6, 2012 7:30 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Alwan and the Center for Traditional Music and Culture present:

Maeandros Ensemble
The Alwan Arab Music Ensemble

Maqam refers to a modal system that is foundational to musical styles from North Africa through the Northern Mediterranean into the Levant and farther east to Central and South Asian traditions. This age-old concept’s transcendence of national and geographic borders aligns with the current trend toward cross-cultural dialogue and global exchange. The inaugural Maqam Fest features musical groups devoted to expanding the scope of maqam beyond its contiguous regional reach; the stage will be shared by ensembles performing centuries-old pieces from the classical repertoires of Baghdad, Aleppo, and Cairo as well as Greek music with roots in Turkey, Golden-Era Egyptian film music, and innovative compositions combining Arab music with Jazz and Latin elements.

Each of the ensembles reflects upon a different facet of the maqam, representing and elaborating upon their respective traditions. The line-up includes performances by New York’s top Middle-Eastern vocalists, including Gaida, George Ziadeh, Amir ElSaffar, Salma Habib, Salah Rajab, Ahmed Gamal (who recently arrived from the Cairo Opera House), and Mavrothi Kontanis. Composer Tareq Abboushi will lead his group Shusmo in performing original pieces blending traditional elements of the maqam with Jazz and Funk styles. Dancers Mariyah, Dameshe, Sherine, and Layla Isis will join Zikrayat, led by Sami Abu Shumays, on stage in musical performances from Hollywood-style Egyptian films.


Tickets: $30 at the door, $25 advance*

Member pricing: $25 at the door, $20 advance*

We are no longer selling advance tickets, but tickets will be available at the door.

*A small surcharge is applied to online ticket purchases; use printout as your proof of purchase. Members must show ID. Tickets are also available at the door. Doors open at 7:00pm.


Alwan Maqam Fest will feature 25-30 minute performances by the following artists (in order of appearance):

    Zikrayat, inspired by the golden age of Egyptian Cinema (the 1930’s-60’s), presents music and dance from Egypt and the Arab world in dynamic stage productions. This performance will feature vocalists Salma Habib and Salah Rajab, as well as dancers Mariyah, Dameshe, Layla Isis, and Sherine. (7:40-8:05)

    Maeandros Ensemble is the Ancient Greek name of the river that “meanders” throughout Asia Minor (modern–day Turkey). Just as this ancient and mighty river winds through distinct regions, the Maeandros Ensemble, created by oud player, singer and songwriter Mavrothi Kontanis, transports their audiences through various genres of related musical traditions from Asia Minor and the Aegean Region: folk songs of the countryside, urban songs from the city centers, Ottoman court music, and regionally inspired original works—all effortlessly intertwined in performance. (8:10-8:35)

    Gaida, Syrian singer songwriter Gaida is one of the most “effusive and charming vocalists in the New York world musicscene.” Along with her outstanding ensemble - trumpeter Amir ElSaffar, oudist Zafer Tawil, pianist George Dulin, buzuk player Tareq Abboushi, percussionist Hector Morales and bassist Jennifer Vincent, Gaida performs “entrancing”innovative interpretations of Syrian folk songs, originals, and freestyle improvisationsover Arabic grooves. (8:40-9:05)

    Safaafir performs the Iraqi Maqam, the classical vocal tradition of Iraq’s urban centers, featuring a repertoire of semi-improvised, chant-like melodies set to Classical Arabic and colloquial Iraqi poetry, followed by lighthearted, rhythmic songs known as pestaat. Led by two American-born siblings of Iraqi descent, Amir and Dena ElSaffar, Safaafir is the only ensemble in the United States dedicated to performing and keeping alive this highly-refined, centuries-old tradition. (9:30-9:55)

    Shusmo is a secret passageway that winds past all the barriers dividing Arabic maqam from down-and-dirty funk and Latin spark. Headed by Palestinian pianist and buzuq player Tareq Abboushi, the New-York-based quintet leads you to a little underground club where pensive classical forms meet dance floor-friendly vibes, where folk tunes open up into gritty jams. It is impossible to label the style, thus the name "Shusmo" which in Arabic means "Whatchamacallit." (10:00-10:25)

    The Alwan Arab Music Ensemble is comprised of six of the leading practitioners of Arab music in New York, all of whom sing and play a wide range of Arab musical styles on traditional instruments, including classical art and popular music from Cairo, Aleppo, and Baghdad. Highlighting vocalist George Ziadeh, this evening also features special guest vocalist Ahmed Gamal. (10:30-11:00)

Last updated: 2012-01-05 18:25:52

Maqam Fest Musicians
Maqam Fest Musicians

Alwan for the Arts

16 Beaver Street, 4th Floor
(between Broad St. and Broadway)
New York, NY 10004
(646) 732-3261

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