Visiting Artists

Visiting Artist Series
Near Eastern Music Ensemble

The Williams College Department of Music presents Members of Near Eastern Music Ensemble (CTMD Touring Artists) on Thursday, April 29, at 8 p.m. in Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall on the Williams College campus. This free event is open to the public and general admission tickets will be available at 7:30 p.m.

Intense, emotional, deep: these words all describe the live music as channeled by the Near Eastern Music Ensemble from the cities and landscapes of the Middle East, via the city of New York and now on stage in Williamstown. This concert has been designed to introduce a general audience to this wonderful musical tradition. Those familiar with the music of Fayruz or Um Kulthum will want to be at there anyway. This is a rare opportunity to encounter a major world music tradition close to home.

Arab music derives from a vast geographical area ranging from the Atlas Mountains and parts of the Sahara in Africa to the Arabian Gulf region and the banks of the Euphrates. Unified by the Arabic language and influences of Islam, Arab music is also the product of centuries of contact and exchange with musical traditions of other cultures from West Africa to Persia.

New York City has long been a major center for Arab musical activity dating back to the 1920s when the predominantly Levantine population of Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian musicians performed their own regional styles. Recent arrivals have increased the concentration and interaction of Arab people from different countries now living in New York, creating demand for a vast and elaborate repertoire of music from Morocco to the Gulf States and from Syria to Yemen.

The Near Eastern Music Ensemble was formed in New York in 1982 by the pre-eminent Palestinian musician and composer Simon Shaheen. Created to increase awareness of Arab music through concerts, recordings, workshops, and lectures, the ensemble has brought its message to the public through presentations at major U.S. universities, including Columbia, MIT, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, and at such prestigious performing arts centers such The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Carnegie Hall. The group’s recording debut, Turath (Heritage) was honored by the Library of Congress as an outstanding release of 1992.

The members of the Near Eastern Music Ensemble are William Shaheen, playing oud and violin, instruments familiar enough to most audiences, the oud being the instrument credited with the inspiration and name of its counterpart, the lute. Bassam Saba plays the flute and the nay, an ancient and still popular end-blown flute. Jamal Sinno is a master of the qanoun, a stringed instrument compared to the zither. Percussionist Dafer Tawil rounds out the group.

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