Global Beat Fusion: Classical Egypt in America

21 03 2008

by Derek Beres

The room is not filled, but there are enough people to embrace the musicians as they deserve—warmly, affectionately, and personably. Symphony Space on Manhattan’s Upper West Side is known for exceptional traditional and world-oriented programming, and is a fitting venue for what is to come.

Seven men and one woman dressed eloquently stroll onto stage, displaying with their instruments an intriguing blend of Arabic and Western histories—the tambourine riqq, the small lute oud, the zither qanun, and the more recognizable violin and cello. Three singers sit at the helm of the semi-circle; a 30-ish man and woman flanking a man more than double their age. He will be the spotlight of the show, though in truth everyone plays brilliantly.

That man’s name is Youssef Kassab, a Syrian professor who has been singing the classical folk music of the Arabian world for over five decades. While he did not found the Chicago-based Arabesque Music Ensemble, his advice and guidance on their latest album, The Music of the Three Musketeers (Xauen), proved to be a godsend to the young collection of musicians. Their aim was to capture Arabian folk traditions in their every nuance, and though they were forced to completely re-record the original to meet Kassab’s approval, founder/qanun player Hicham Chami felt blessed for the opportunity.

Read the full article on PopMatters

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