Musical Performance: George Ziadeh Performs Classical Poetry of Omar Al Khayyam and Ahmed Shawqi

Sat, December 5, 2015 8:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Lead vocalist George Ziadeh Performs Classical Poetry: Rubaiyat al Khayyam and the poem of Ahmed Shawqi سلوا كؤوس الطلا (What is to be found in the Color of the Urn)

Music by Riad Al-Sunbati

George Ziadeh, Vocals and 'oud
Layth Al-Rubaye, Violin
Naseem Alatrash, Cello
Tareq Rantisi, Percussion


Rubaiyat al Khayyam

Poetry by Omar Al Khayyam (trans. Ahmed Rami)

سلوا كؤوس الطلا (What is to be found in the Color of the Urn)
Poetry by Ahmed Shawqi (1932)

Tickets: $20 General | $15 for Students & Seniors (Buynow*)
(*A small online fee is applied)

Doors open at 7:30pm

Omar Al Khayyam(b. May 1048 – d. December 1131). His poetry, most notably the Rubaiyat, is one of the markers of literary aesthetics. Al Khayyam who was a philosopher, mathematician and astronomer, left a library of works that re-imagined life in a spiritual, transcendent realm, and negotiated with nature in an unparalleled rhetoric. In particular, the Rubaiyat, which contains nearly a thousand quatrains, each being a poem in two-line stanzas with two segments, elegantly portrays Al Khayyam's views on religion, spirituality and nature.

Al Khayyam’s poetry, in its English rendition by Edward Fitzgerald, set a standard for how a literary and aesthetic work could be so intrinsically captured as to withstand difference and usher what we now so commonly accept as world literature. No less brilliant is Ahmad Rami’s translation from Persian into Arabic, which was put to music by Riad Al-Sunbati and sung by Um Kalthoum. In this event, selections from Rami’s version will be sung by George Ziadeh whose voice has depth and timber that harmoniously blends poetic classicism and the improvisational and meditative musical expression of Maqam, a tribute and an illumination of the deeper meaning and reflection of Omar Al Khayyam’s vision.

Ahmed Shawqi (October 16, 1868– October 14, 1932) was one of the greatest Arab poets and a dramatist whose impact pioneered a literary and eloquent style that maintained and morphed the poetic nature of the Arabic language to modern literature and its lived urban experience and social environment. His language is unrelenting in its formal referentiality and grammatical logic, its meter streams as the flow of pure mathematics, the essences of words. Educated in the law and active politically, he was exiled to Spain in 1914 by the British ruling over Egypt then. Shawqi returned in 1919 to pen, in his last stage of creative production, some of the most expressive works of modern Arab literature.

سلوا كؤوس الطلا (What is to be found in the Color of the Urn) is a love poem written in 1932 in deference to the voice and demeanor of a young Um Kalthum after an encounter at a private performance in Shawqi's house, where she was offered a glass of wine that she pretended to drink by merely bringing it as close to her lips that they took the color of the wine.

One of its loveliest couplets runs:

Her Conversation is Magic, As it Were
Tunes Streaming the Lips of a Prophet, it Sung
Found the tree of the Dove, the Fluttering Call of Passion its Abode
Dew of the Night, Dawn Breaks, Not in Memory, the Moan of Desire


This event forms part of Alwan's Expressions of Tarab Series, an ongoing project at Alwan to produce multidisciplinary works of art inspired by themes in essential texts of Islamic culture, including The One Thousand and One Nights, Rubaiyat al Khayyam, the Seven Golden Odes, and Interpreter of Desires by Ibn Al Arabi.


Alwan's 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: 2015-12-04 12:01:20

Drinking in a Spring Garden, Iran, ca.: 1430. Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York
Drinking in a Spring Garden, Iran, ca.: 1430. Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York
Ahmed Shawqi
Ahmed Shawqi

Alwan for the Arts

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