Musical Performance: A New York Evening of Arab Music

Fri, July 16, 2010 9:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

(View all musical performances »)

In conjunction with New York's 6th Annual Arab-American Heritage Week (


The Golden Age of Egypt

Sami Abu Shumays, Director and Arab Violin
Bridget Robbins, Nay
Rami El Aasser, Percussion

Ancient Melodies of Al-Andalus and Music of the Levant

George Ziadeh,
Vocals and Oud
Zafer Tawil,

Maqams of Baghdad

Amir ElSaffar
, Vocals and Santoor
Zafer Tawil, Percussion

Tickets: $15.00, available at the door or online here. (A surcharge applies; use printout as your ticket).

Doors open at 8:30 p.m.

* * * * *

From Al Andalus of the Middle Ages to the Maghreb, across North Africa and the Near East to distant Mesopotamia, many genres of Arab music evolved over the centuries -- as different as the countries and peoples themselves, yet united by language and heritage.

In deference to New York City as a grand cultural mosaic, and in celebration of Arab-American Heritage Week, tonight's concert brings our audiences the diversity of Arab music through the performance of a cross-section of beloved works -- music known to Arab audiences as "tarab" -- performed by many of this City's most esteemed Arab music specialists.

About the Musicians

Arab violinist Sami Abu Shumays was born in the United States of mixed Palestinian and American descent, but returned to the Arab world to develop a richer connection with his cultural heritage. Originally a composer and scholar of Western Classical music, he began studying Arabic violin with renowned Arabic violinist and oud player Simon Shaheen in New York, where he concurrently pursued graduate studies in composition and ethnomusicology at C.U.N.Y. after receiving his B.A. in Music from Harvard. Seeking a deeper immersion in Arab musical culture, Sami studied in Cairo, Egypt on a Fulbright fellowship, with Dr. Alfred Gamil, and continued his studies in Aleppo, Syria, with Mohammed Qasas, Abdel-Basit Bakkar, and Abdel-Minaim Senkary–experiences that led him to devote himself to Arabic music.

George Ziadeh
was born and raised in Birzeit, Palestine, and pursued music from a young age. In 1986 he moved to the United States, where he studied ‘oud with Simon Shaheen and classical singing and voice with Youssef Kassab, with whom he has toured extensively across the country.George has performed and lectured with such ensembles and institutions as the University of Chicago’s Middle East Music Ensemble with Issa Boulos, the University of Colorado (Boulder), Alwan for the Arts, the United Nations (invited by Kofi Annan), and annually at the Columbia University Department of Ethnomusicology. In 2008, George was a featured solo and ensemble performer in the “Brooklyn Maqam” Festival of Arab Music. From 1995 to 1997 George taught at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Ramallah and at Birzeit University. George is considered an authority in maqam and Arab classical repertoire.

Iraqi-American Amir ElSaffar is an accomplished jazz and classical trumpeter and santoor player who has collaborated with a variety of artists, including Cecil Taylor, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Vijay Iyer, and Daniel Barenboim. In 2002, ElSaffar put his New York career on hold to immerse himself in the music of his father 's homeland, the Iraqi maqam. He went on a tremendous quest, traveling to Iraq and throughout the Middle East and Europe in urgent pursuit of masters who could impart to him this centuries-old oral tradition. He quickly became versed in maqam, learning to play the santour (Iraqi hammered dulcimer) and to sing, and created new techniques for the trumpet that enable Arabic microtones and ornaments to be played in the rarest of fashion on this instrument. His 2007 release, Two Rivers (Pi Recordings), is a groundbreaking, emotionally charged work that invokes ancient Iraqi musical traditions and frames them in a modern jazz setting. Described by BBC World as "harrowing to absorb; full of as much beauty as pain," and by Downbeat as "hauntingly beautiful," the CD appeared on several top 10 lists of 2007, and was the Village Voice's runner-up debut jazz release of that year. He recently made his debut at the Jazz Gallery with a Gallery-commissioned work, "Within/Between."

Zafer Tawil is a virtuoso on ‘oud, violin, and qanun, and a master of Arabic percussion. Zafer has performed in concerts across the country, including performances with numerous musicians ranging from Sting to Arab music virtuosos Chab Mami, Simon Shaheen, Bassam Saba and George Ziadeh, to avant-garde composer/performer Elliot Sharpe. He was a featured composer and performer in acclaimed director Jonathan Demme's Oscar-nominated film Rachel Getting Married and is composing and performing for Demme’s next film project, Zeitoun, based on Dave Eggers’ book about Abdulrahman Zeitoun’s post-Hurricane Katrina odyssey. Zafer has worked on many collaboration concerts involving classical Indian and Persian music as well as arab/jazz fusion. He has held workshops on Arab music at many institutions and universities across the United States. A native of East Jerusalem, he resides in New York City.

Last updated: 2010-07-07 04:41:46

Musical Instruments of the Arab World
Musical Instruments of the Arab World

Alwan for the Arts

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(between Broad St. and Broadway)
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(646) 732-3261

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