Musical Performance: New Sounds from the Arab Lands (A World Premiere Concert Series)

Sun, February 17, 2013 7:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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This concert is presented in collaboration with Aga Khan Music Initiative, a programme of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

This adventurous program brings together eminent performer-composer-improvisers from Syria and Tunisia who create new music inspired by the rich cultural heritage of the Arab lands. Often performing on instruments that are not native to the Middle East, these accomplished artists exemplify the talent, achievement and breadth of a rising generation of cosmopolitan Arab musicians who combine jazz and classical music with the microtonal subtleties and myriad melodic modes of Arab music.

Each musician is at once a consummate performer, skilled improviser, and highly original composer. The ensemble’s music represents a sublime mix of spontaneity and control rooted in a thousand-year-old tradition of improvisation. Part composed and part improvised, the new works created by members of the ensemble come alive in the moment of performance but are also charged with history. At once seamless and surprising, they could only have emerged from artists whose own musical journeys have zigzagged back and forth between the Middle East and the West in unique and remarkable ways.


Kinan Azmeh, clarinet
Basel Rajoub, saxophone
Jasser Haj Youssef, violin, viola d’amore
Feras Charestan, qanun
Khaled Yassine
, percussion

Tickets: $20 General | $15 for Students, Members and Seniors (Buy Now*)

(*A small online fee is applied)

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.



New Sounds from the Arab Lands is led by the versatile clarinetist Kinan Azmeh. Born in Damascus, Kinan graduated from that city’s High Institute of Music and subsequently from New York’s Juilliard Conservatory. He has appeared worldwide as a classical clarinetist as well as a new music improviser and jazz player. His compositions include works for orchestra, chamber groups, and solo clarinet as well as film scores, dance soundtracks, and electro-acoustic music.

Basel Rajoub, born in Aleppo, Syria, graduated from the Damascus High Institute of Music, where he studied European and Middle Eastern classical music as well as jazz. Known for merging jazz with Middle Eastern rhythms, piano, and brass and developing oriental music for the saxophone, Basel performs widely as a solo artist and a leader of the Basel Rajoub Ensemble.

Jasser Haj Youssef
, originally from Tunisia, currently lives in Paris and performs both on violin and on the Baroque viola d’amore, whose resonant sympathetic strings are ideally suited to the modal melodic forms of Arab music. Jasser is a consummate fusionist, as much at home in jazz as in classical music and Arab maqam.

Khaled Yassine is from Beirut and plays both Middle Eastern and Western percussion. Khaled tours widely with Anouar Brahem and is artistic director and producer of the Beirut-based CD label Edict Records.

Feras Chahrestan comes from the city of Al-Hasakeh, in northeast Syria, and studied qanun at the High Institute of Music in Damascus. He performs regularly as a qanun soloist with the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra and the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra as well as in the bands Roubai Toueis and Woujouh.


World Premiere Concerts Tour: Sounds from the Arab Lands

8 February 2013 Theatre de Evreux, France

9 February 2013 Theatre de la Ville / Theatre aux Abbesses, Paris, France

15 February 2013 Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Camb., MA

16 February 2013 Meyer Auditorium, Freer Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC

17 February 2013 Alwan for the Arts, New York, New York

26 February 2013 Hopkins Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College

28 February 2013 Brandeis University Slosberg Recital Hall, Boston, MA


The New York Event has also been co-sponsored by the Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center (MEMEAC) of the CUNY Graduate Center


The New Sounds project was developed by the Aga Khan Music Initiative (AKMI), a program of the Aga Khan Trust or Culture. The Music Initiative supports artists and artistic communities in the Middle East and North Africa, Central Asia, and South Asia that seek to reassemble and further develop diverse expressions of a hared musical heritage in contemporary forms. Working with partners and collaborators around the world, its performance, outreach, and production activities offer a broad platform for contemporary, tradition-inspired music. In parallel, it develops new models for community-based arts education that revitalize cultural heritage as a source of livelihood for musicians while promoting pluralism.


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: 2013-01-29 03:06:32

New Sounds from the Arab Lands © Carlos Casas/Aga Khan Music Initiative
New Sounds from the Arab Lands © Carlos Casas/Aga Khan Music Initiative
New Sounds from the Arab Lands © Carlos Casas/Aga Khan Music Initiative
New Sounds from the Arab Lands © Carlos Casas/Aga Khan Music Initiative

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