Musical Performance: Re-Encounters Series: THREE OUDS - Armenian, Egyptian and Greek

Fri, October 2, 2009 9:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Re-encounters Series

THREE OUDS - Armenian, Egyptian and Greek


Ara Dinkjian - Armenian Oud
Mavrothi T. Kontanis-
Greek Oud
Joseph Tawadros -
Egyptian Oud
James Tawadros -

Admission: $15
Tickets can be purchased at the door

The Instrument

Sultaan al-'alaat, the king of instruments, the oud remains the central instrument of many Maqam based music. Used in several musical traditions, and claimed to have had its origins in various parts of the Middle East thousands of years ago, the oud has evolved through the efforts of great musicians and luthiers, such as Ibrahim and Ishaq Al-Mawsili, Zamzam, and Ziryab, and crossed over to Al-Andalus, Moorish Spain, to beget the European lute in its many variations. Through the work of recent great musicians the oud became a prominent solo instrument, after being limited to composers and the accompaniment of singers.

The Music

Perhaps there are as many styles of playing the oud as there are oud players, yet the technique, timbre, tuning and ornamentation, as well as the role of the oud within an ensemble are affected by local and regional tastes and have been passed on as an esthetic system. Some of these techniques have travelled from one part of the world to another, but were often incorporated into local preferences. it is a fascinating idea to see how the same instrument was and is explored in different ways, which only keep extending its potential.

Three exceptional musicians, Armenian, Egyptian and Greek, all steeped in their individual traditions and personal expression, yet open to new ways, will each first play within their own style, then merge the three together to experience the tremendous potential of this instrument.

The Musicians

ARA DINKJIAN s best known as the founder of the highly influential and groundbreaking instrumental group, NIGHT ARK, which recorded four CDs for RCA/BMG and PolyGram/Universal. His compositions have been recorded in thirteen different languages by top singers and musicians throughout the world (including Eleftheria Arvanitaki and Sezen Aksu), proving that music is indeed the international language. His hit “Homecoming” (“Dinata Dinata”) was performed at the closing ceremonies of the 2004 Athens Olympics. Ara Dinkjian is also considered one of the top oud players in the world. He was chosen to represent the Armenians in the international oud festivals of Jerusalem and Thessaloniki. Ara Dinkjian uses La Bella oud strings. To listen to Ara, click here:

MAVROTHI T. KONTANIS was born in 1979 in Pennsylvania, USA, though his family’s origin is from Halkidiki, Greece. As a child, he showed interest in several instruments, including the clarinet, guitar, and bouzouki. However, at the age of 16 he discovered his true passion, the oud, and began lessons with his first teacher Stamatis Merzanis immediately. Since then he has studied with many other renowned masters including Münir N. Beken, Emin Gündüz, John Berberian, Kyriakos Kalaitzides, Dinçer Dalkılıc, Yurdal Tokcan, and Ara Dinkjian. In addition to playing oud, Mavrothi has become an accomplished singer and violinist, and also enjoys teaching and writing.

Mavrothi has performed throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East playing traditional and classical music from all over the world, as well as original compositions of his own with various ensembles. He has been featured on several albums and the film soundtrack of “AmericanEast,” and released two albums in the Spring of 2008 that showcase the oud and diversity of sounds from the Aegean region.

Mavrothi’s composition “Uşşak Saz Semai” was performed by Dr. Münir N. Beken at the “Echoes of Diversity” symposium at the University of Performing Arts in Vienna, Austria in November of 2007, and he has been commissioned to compose a piece for the “Music of the Stones” project headed by visual artist William Berry. Most recently, Mavrothi has been contracted by Mel Bay Publications, Inc. to write a series of oud method books for international distribution, and will also be teaching Greek folk singing classes in August of 2009 at the EEFC Music and Dance Workshops in Iroquois Springs, NY.

By combining his love for classical, urban, and folk music from Greece and the Near East, Mavrothi hopes to heighten awareness of the great beauty and freedom that exist within this unique and diverse musical tradition, especially through the Maeandros Ensemble, which he founded in 2006. To listen to Mavrothi, click here:

JOSEPH TAWADROS was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1983. Immigrating to Australia in 1986, he brought with him a musical tradition inherited from his maternal grandfather, Mansi Habib (1920-1957), an active composer and an oud and violin virtuoso in Cairo. Tawadros’ uncle, Yacoub Mansi Habib, is an active professional Egyptian musician and recognised as one of the pioneering figures in Egyptian trumpet playing, also influenced his musical interest immensely. Joseph studied with Mohamed Youssef, a renowned oud player, jazz pianist and family friend. Youssef encouraged Joseph to explore the musical parameters of the oud and the traditional Egyptian taqasim, and Tawadros’ personal style is uniquely instinctive in his music's improvised content. At the age of 12, he began performing in a trio with his teacher Youssef and Tarek Sawires, a fine traditional percussionist. This platform enabled the young musician to expose his compositions to the public for the first time. Since these formative years, Tawadros has explored diverse ways of expanding the role of the oud as an instrument in Australian society.

Joseph Tawadros has performed at the Sydney Opera House, Cairo Opera House, Alexandria Opera House, Huntington Classical Music Festival, Womadelaide, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, City Recital Hall Angel Place, National Multicultural Festival, Institut Du Monde Arabe (Paris) with such artists as tabla master Zakir Hussain, sarangi master Sultan Khan, Slava Grigoryan, Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, James Crabb, Christian Lindberg, Neil Finn, Mark Isaacs, William Barton, Karin Schaupp, Bobby Singh and Katie Noonan. In March 2004, Joseph completed his Egyptian tour of Cairo and Alexandria, being invited by the Egyptian Minister of Culture and the Opera House, it was the first cultural exchange between the Australian and the Egyptian governments. In the same year Joseph was also invited to perform at the WOMAD festival in Adelaide as a solo artist, in this he also took part in the All-Star jam session in front of an audience 30,000 people. This platform allowed Joseph to perform with Malian Band Tinirawen, Irish Band Kila, Sarangi Master Ustad Sultan Khan and his Indian percussionists, Algerian singer Hamid Baroudi, Didgeridoo player Mark Atkins and Tabla Maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain, who had chosen the musicians for the collaboration. He has also composed for film, with his music featured in the documentaries I Remember 1948 and The Last Days of Yasser Arafat and the short films Haneen and Checkpoint. He has also completed compositions for animations with artist Michael Roseth. To listen to Joseph, click here:

JAMES TAWADROS was born in Australia in January, 1989. The brother of oud virtuoso Joseph Tawadros he was brought up in an environment which encouraged music, his grandfather being Mansi Habib, an oud and violin virtuoso (1920-1957), and his uncle Yacoub Mansi Habib the legendary Egyptian trumpet pioneer. Although only 20 years old, James has already made a name for himself as a world class percussionist and soloist, and is receiving praise reserved for those well beyond his years. His main instrument is the riqq, a small hand held tambourine, traditionally with skin covering and five pairs of cymbals. He has performed with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and with such artists such as Slava and Leonard Grigoryan, Richard Tognetti, Katie Noonan Alister Spence, Abdo Dagher, James Crabb, Mark Isaacs, Jeremy Alsop, Mary Doumany, Al Slavik, William Barton and regularly accompanies his brother in concert. In 2005 he was invited along with his brother by the Egyptian Ministry of Culture to perform a concert at the Cairo Opera House, and was featured in many interviews on both Egyptian radio and TV. In the same year he was invited by oud virtuoso Adel Salameh (France/Palestine) and singer Naziha Azzouz to tour Australia and New Zealand, performing in Womadelaide, Womad New Zealand, and the Global Beats Festival at the Sydney Opera House. James has performed at Carnivale, the 2003 Asian Music and Dance Festival at the Sydney Opera House, the Bellingen Festival, Institute Du Monde Arabe (Paris) National Multicultural Festival, Womadelaide, Womad New Zealand, Global Roots Festival, Huntington Festival and the BMW Theatre Melbourne. In 2006 James was invited by the Australian Chamber Orchestra as a guest soloist for “The Travellers” national tour, the first tour kicking off the ACO’s 30th season. Later on in the year, he and his brother Joseph’s latest album Visions was nominated for ‘Best World Music Album 2006’ in the Australian Record Industry Awards (ARIA).

Last updated: 2009-10-02 20:08:05

Ara Dinkjian, Joseph Tawadros, Mavrothi Kontanis, and James Tawadros (L to R)
Ara Dinkjian, Joseph Tawadros, Mavrothi Kontanis, and James Tawadros (L to R)

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