Musical Performance: Naji Youssef sings the Songs of Wadi Al-Safi, the "Voice of Lebanon"

Sat, November 19, 2011 9:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Naji Youssef, Vocals


Maurice Chedid, 'Oud
Zafer Tawil, Violin
Amir Naoum, Percussion

Listen to Naji Youssef sing mawwal "Libnan Ya Et'et Sama".


Regular: $20 (buy now), Student/Senior/Member: $15 (buy now).* Student and member IDs will be checked at the door.

*A small surcharge is applied to online ticket purchases; use printout as your proof of purchase.Tickets are also available at the door. Doors open at 8:30pm.

* * *

“Naji Youssef...sang long-breathed, improvisatory songs in a soaring baritone, drawing applause for the intricacy of his melismas.” - The New York Times, September 14, 1994

Called for well over half a century the "Voice of Lebanon," Wadi Al-Safi is considered that country's most influential singer and composer. Best-known for his interpretations of "mawwals", and for the over 3000 songs he has composed, he has brought his music to enthusiastic audiences, both in Lebanon and abroad, focusing attention on the folk music of his homeland, performing poetry and Zajal to inspire patriotism, love, devotion, and honor.

In tonight's concert, yet another mesmerizing voice of Lebanon, Naji Youssef, using his agile, melifluous baritone, honors the great master in a concert of some of his most beloved songs and mawwals, joined by an ensemble of master musicians.

About the Artists

Born in the northern Shouf mountains of Lebanon, Naji Youssef started singing in his church choir at a tender age. He immigrated to the United States in 1988 and has been a leading figure in the Arab-American music scene, performing in many venues and festivals and in many projects with such artists as Simon Shaheen, Philip Glass, and Bassam Saba, including performances with the New York Arabic Orchestra at Symphony Space and at Columbia University's Miller Theatre. Naji’s clear and strong voice is reminiscent of the Lebanese jabali (mountain) style exemplified by great masters such as Wadi Al-Safi, yet the cantorial tradition adds nuance and subtle phrasing to his singing. Naji has mastered many repertoires besides the Melkite hymns, including old poetic singing styles such as mijana, ‘ataba, shruqi and zajal. For many years, Naji has been cantor and deacon in the Catholic Melkite Church of the Virgin Mary in Brooklyn, New York.

Maurice Chedid honed his oud playing at the Lebanese Conservatory of Middle Eastern Music, but comes from a family of musicians. His father was a highly esteemed cantor in the Maronite Church in Lebanon, and his sister, a renowned vocalist. Chedid performed a variety of Arab song traditions including Syrian and Andalusian Muwashahat, regional songs (khaligi and Lebanese) and Egyptian classics in nightclubs and a variety of venues throughout Lebanon. As a member of the National Lebanese Folkloric Group, he toured internationally for four years speciallzing in Lebanese folksongs or “beladi” traditions, including djebeli, and the repertoire of Lebanon’s national beloved singers Fairouz and Wadi es-Safi. In 1988, the proprietor of Cedars of Lebanon, Tony Hosri, invited Chedid to play at the NYC based restaurant-nightclub, where Chedid played regularly until its closing in 2001. Chedid currently plays at Arab social celebrations and venues throughout the metro area.

Zafer Tawil is a virtuoso on oud, violin, and qanun, and a master of Arab 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 and Tareq Abboushi's band Shusmo, 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. 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.

Amir Naoum Chehade has grown up with a doumbek in his hands. Being born into a musical family influenced his decision to become a professional drummer. Amir attended the renowned Studio al-Fann (The Art Studio) conservatory of music in Beirut, Lebanon. Since coming to the United States in 1977, Amir has performed for Arabic, Turkish, Greek, Jewish, Armenian, and American audiences, in locations across the US and Canada, becoming one of the most prominent Arabic-style drummers in North America. Amir Naoum has performed particularly extensively in New York City: At all the major Middle Eastern nightclubs; Carnegie Hall, Town Hall, Lincoln Center, Merkin Concert Hall, and in special cultural appearances for The United Nations. Amir's drumming is often featured on radio and TV broadcasts, in films, and on a long list of Arab, Armenian, Turkish, Greek, Jewish, Latin Pop, and Indian-Arab Fusion recordings. Heis a master teacher of dumbek and other instruments of Arab percussion. He has taught in New York and New Jersey since 1979, and seen many of his students go on to become professional drummers themselves. Amir is proficient not only on dumbek, but also on tambourine (riq), muzhar, and bendir.

Photo of Naji Youssef: K. Yatarola

Last updated: 2011-10-31 20:17:50

Naji Youssef
Naji Youssef
Wadi Al-Safi
Wadi Al-Safi

Alwan for the Arts

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(between Broad St. and Broadway)
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