Musical Performance: 4th Annual Maqam Fest (Official Showcase of APAP Conference) 2015

Fri, January 9, 2015 7:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Annual Showcase for the Association of Perfoming Arts Presenters (APAP) Conference, Co-Presented by the Center for Traditional Music and Dance (CTMD) and Alwan for the Arts

The 4th Annual Maqam Fest features exceptional ensembles that have a unique approach and perspective on maqam. Developed over millenia, maqam is a complex system of musical modes and represents one of the great legacies of the Arab-Islamic world, pervading musical cultures from the Maghreb (Northwest Africa) to Western China, and from the Balkans to the Sudan. Maqam Fest articulates the tradition of maqam within an evolving world that musically constructs, connects and redevelops convention.

Maqam Fest 2015 celebrates a line-up that pays tribute to this tradition featuring long-honored practices, explorations of historic ties between diverse musical styles and an examination of contemporary compositions and improvisations. This showcase is part of the Annual Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) Conference, one of the most anticipated events in the performing arts field, which brings thousands of presenters, agents, managers and artists in the fields of dance, theater and music from around the world to New York City each January.

Advance: $30 General Admission | $25 for Students and Seniors.

Limited tickets available at the door
(*A small online fee is applied - use printout as your ticket)

for APAP badge holders
Doors open at 6:45 pm

4th Floor

7:20-8pm (Arab 'oud meets jazz)

Alwan Ensemble
8:20-9pm (Classics from Aleppo, Cairo, and Baghdad)

Souren Baronian
9:20-10pm (Armenian reedman extrordinaire)

Amir ElSaffar & The Two Rivers Ensemble

10:20-11pm (Iraqi maqam transforms the jazz idiom)

6th Floor


7-7:40pm (Art music from Uzbekistan)

Yuri Yunakov

8-8:40pm (Balkan-Roman wedding music)

Kenan Adnawi
9-9:40pm (Contemporary 'oud repertoire/trio)

Ustad Ikhlaq Hussain Khan
10-10:40pm (Classical Hindustani sitar/tablah duo)



The resident ensemble of Alwan for the Arts, the Alwan Ensemble delivers a joyful and transporting range of classical songs from the greater Arab World, built around textures of rhythmic and improvisational intensity. In the classical art music traditions of Cairo, Aleppo, and Baghdad—three important Arab cities with great legacies in art and culture—each has a unique repertory: the dawr and qasida of Cairo; the Andalucían muwashshahat of Aleppo; and al-maqam al-Iraqi of Baghdad; with distinct characteristics, rules, and aesthetics. Yet all adhere to the maqam and place great importance on poetry and the vocal melody sung either by a soloist or a chorus, and accompanied by ensembles of traditional instruments, including the 'oud (Arab lute), qanun (zither), nay (flute), violin, santur (hammered dulcimer), riqq (tambourine), and tabla (goblet drum).

Six contemporary masters of a broad range of Arab musical idioms display their 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. The Alwan Ensemble’s performance evokes ambiances of Cairo, Baghdad, Jerusalem and Aleppo, but more importantly that of contemporary New York with its own vibrant Arab American artistic and intellectual community.


The Two Rivers Ensemble, led by trumpeter and composer Amir ElSaffar, is a sextet of jazz and Middle Eastern musicians that has made innovative strides in using the maqam modal system to transform the jazz idiom. Deeply rooted in musical forms of Iraq and nearby regions, the music still speaks the language of swing, improvisation and group interaction, and the resultant sound is distinct from other contemporary cross-cultural musical fusions. After 8 years of extensive performing and touring and the release of two critically- acclaimed albums on Pi Recordings, Inana (2011) and Two Rivers (2007), the Two Rivers Ensemble has developed an instinctive ease with ElSaffar’s highly complex music, enabling the band to play with a creativity that transcends pure technical challenge in a style that is rooted in tradition, while creating an entirely new aesthetic.


Kenan Adnawi is a well established Oud virtuoso from Syria. He started playing Oud at the age of 7. Since then, he went through perfecting his performance earning him a long list of awards and an impeccable reputation at an International level. Adnawi performs as a soloist and as part of ensembles and orchestras in some of the major international events and venues and alongside some the world-renouned artists such as Marcel Khalifa and Bryan Adams. Adnawi's interest in different musical traditions of the world has led him to collaborate with a plethora of artists from different musical backgrounds. His passion is creating new music and new ways of improvisation and composition for the Oud by incorporating novel techniques, scales, and improvising ideas from other world music traditions. Adnawi's performances feature experimental rhythms and sounds that engage the audience in new musical experiences every time.


Arresting and compelling, Nashaz engages listeners of Arabic music, jazz, and 'oud. Led by composer and 'oudist Brian Prunka, the music ranges from dance-like, contemplative, energetic and fiery, revealing a depth of understanding of the Arabic maqam, and the ornamentation and phrasing that characterize the 'oud tradition. As a composer, Prunka successfully blurs the lines between two sonic worlds - jazz and Arab music - creating a style that showcases the best of both while striking out in stirring new directions.

Nashaz literally means "dissonance" in Arabic, and in this context, relays the idea that expansive and innovative music will challenge listeners' preconceived notions of both traditions, taking them out of their comfort zone, though in reality the resultant sound is compelling, alluring, and always powerful. Transplanted to Brooklyn from New Orleans, Brian Prunka brings together jazz adventurousness, New Orleans rhythm, and years of experience with Arabic music as an essential voice in the band. Aside from leading Nashaz, he has performed internationally with Simon Shaheen, Michael Bates, Ravish Momin, the New York Arabic Orchestra, The Vancouver International Orchestra, Zikrayat, The Near East River Ensemble, and others. Nashaz is comprised of a coterie of top-notch NY jazz and world musicians like Kenny Warren on trumpet (Slavic Soul Party), George Mel and Vin Scialla (Snehasish Mozumder).


Taking their name from the musical tradition in which they specialize, the Queens-based Ensemble Shashmaqam presents this compelling repertoire in expert fashion. The group’s members all hail originally from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, where the cultural traditions of the Bukharan Jewish people intermingled for centuries with those of neighboring Central Asian and Middle Eastern peoples. Ensemble Shashmaqam reflects the preeminent position that Jews have long held as performers of indigenous Central Asian music with a diverse repertoire revealing the amazing panorama of cultures and musical styles present in this region. From classical and folk styles to lullabies, laments, dances and liturgical repertoire, the music of Ensemble Shasmaqam is unique, engaging and exotic. Ensemble Shashmaqam features David Davidov (tar), Boris Kuknariyev (accordion), Shumiel Kuyenov (musical director, doira), Firuza Junatan (dance). The group will be joined for this performance by guest singer Rustam Samarqandi.


Souren Baronian grew up in Spanish Harlem riding two powerful currents of his creativity: his ethnic Armenian heritage, and jazz. His own music is an authentic organic hybrid of those two idioms. The sound of his band is truly unique, applying a jazz vocabulary and the bebop sensibility of Charlie Parker and Lester Young to Middle Eastern rhythms on traditional instruments such as the oud, kaval, dumbek, and G-clarinet. "Taksim" is a Middle Eastern term meaning improvisation, and inspired improvisation is the home territory of Souren Baronian and his band. Souren’s ensemble has toured all over the world and played many of the top venues including the Montreal Jazz Festival and The Blue Note jazz club in NYC. The ensemble features Souren Baronian (G-clarinet, saxophone, kaval, duduk, riq), Adam Good ('oud), Lee Baronian (darbukkeh), Mal Stein (drums, percussion) and Ernie Provencher (bass).


Ustad Ikhlaq Hussain Khan is a virtuoso sitarist from a centuries-long line of influential musicians of the Delhi Gharana tradition, dating back to the early 13th century. He was taught by his father Ustad Imdad Khan, and by Pandit Ravi Shankar. He has performed in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Pakistan, and India. In 2009 he released the acclaimed Perfume of God. Ikhlaq plays in the Gayaki Ang (or vocal manner of playing). It is perhaps the most difficult form of playing the sitar. It involves 'sytematic use of pitch deflecting technique, where by pulling the strings across the frets and varying their tension, the player can produce intricate melodie phrases from a single stroke of the plectrum. Thus, emulating the human voice to a degree normally unattainable on plucked instruments. He most recently completed an Artist in Residency at the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA) in Shangri La, Hawaii.


Born in Haskovo, Thrace in 1958, Yuri Yunakov is of Turkish Roma descent. A self-taught virtuoso, Yuri comes from a family of musicians, which includes his father, grandfather, uncles and brother. His career began with his family's band, yet Yuri was catapulted to international fame for his pioneering work in Bulgarian wedding music with Ivo Papasov, whose legendary band Trakiya attracted thousands of fans and hundreds of imitators. Their incredibly thrilling music showcases virtuosic technique, electrifying improvisation, rapid tempos, daring key changes and eclectic musical literacy. This contemporary style of "wedding music", named for its ubiquitous presence at life cycle celebrations such as weddings, baptisms, and circumcisions where dancing and music are a requirement, was originally played only for, with, and by Roma.

Yuri’s music is known for its haunting melodies, dense ornamentation and complex rhythmic patterns. To no surprise, Yuri has been the recipient of much critical acclaim. The New York Times has written “Yuri Yunakov led his ensemble in Bulgarian and Gypsy tunes….racing ahead in dizzy-speeding curlicues and zigzags. They played as if Bulgaria’s national drink were rocket-fuel!” Yunakov immigrated to New York in 1994 and formed his own group, the Yuri Yunakov Ensemble, which has toured widely in Europe and the U.S., including concerts at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, the National Folk Festival, and the Monterey World Music Festival.



The Center for Traditional Music and Dance (CTMD), one of the nation’s premier traditional arts organizations, is dedicated to maintaining the vibrancy of the performing arts traditions of New York’s ethnic and immigrant communities through grass-roots community organizing, research-based educational programming and public performances. Celebrating over 45 years, CTMD continues to be a vital resource for introducing audiences to vibrant ethnic music and dance traditions from around the globe. By introducing the traditional arts to broader audiences, CTMD plays a significant role in affirming the value of cultural diversity as an essential component of our national identity. For more information, visit


Alwan's music program is made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in Partnership with the City Council.

Last updated: 2015-01-07 11:01:14

Yuri Yunakov
Yuri Yunakov
Souren Baronian
Souren Baronian
Ustad Ikhlaq Hussain Khan
Ustad Ikhlaq Hussain Khan
Alwan Arab Music Ensemble
Alwan Arab Music Ensemble
Amir ElSaffar - Two Rivers Ensemble
Amir ElSaffar - Two Rivers Ensemble
Kenan Adnawi
Kenan Adnawi

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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