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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

An Arabian Night

Middle Eastern concert at Tufts

Published: March 7, 2008
Section: Arts, Etc.

Be very cautious when using Google Maps. Or, well, at least make sure that you have the correct address.

I tell you this from experience. On Tuesday, March 4 I attended a spectacular Middle Eastern concert at Tufts University held in the school’s brand new Granoff Music Hall. The music hall’s address is 20 Talbott Street.

Unfortunately there is another 20 Talbott Street in Medford, really far away from the Granoff Music Hall. That’s the 20 Talbott I ended up at first. I then back-tracked about 30 minutes or so to Granoff.

After finally finding the amazing building, I settled down in my seat and waited for the production to begin. I was seeing the concert as a way of fulfilling a requirement for my Introduction to World Music course, but was still excited about it due to my love of Middle Eastern music.

The concert was put on by the Arabesque Music Ensemble (AME), which consists of Michel Merhej Baklouk on the Riqq (a tambourine-like instrument), Hicham Chami on the Qanun (a zither-like instrument), Hanna Khoury on the Violin, Walid Zairi on the Oud (a guitar-like instrument), Kinan Abou-Afach on the Cello, and three vocalists: Aboud Agha, Youssef Kassab, and Dima Orsho.

Throughout the entire performance, the aspects which captured my interest the most were the deep appreciation and approval that the members of AME clearly had for each other. During each song, the band members were looking at each other and nodding or smiling. They also wanted the crowd to feel the same way.

Another interesting aspect of the show was that clapping during each song was not only okay, but was also expected and even preferred. After the performance, a member of the audience observed that the show would have been better had the crowd been allowed to dance.

I could not help but agree. During most of the choruses of the songs, the entire audience was clapping and getting really into the music. I found myself wanting to get out of my seat and dance, something which should feel very out of place in such a venue.

The music of the show was drawn from three famous Middle Eastern artists known by the AME as the Three Musketeers (thus the reason that it was the name of their performance). All three artists (Muhammad al-Qasabji, Zakariyya Ahmad, and Riyad al-Sunbati) worked with the great Egyptian vocalist Umm Kulthum.

In the program given out to the audience members as they entered the music hall were the biographies of all these artists and the extent of their interactions with each other.

In all, the concert was great. All the artists were extremely talented and it was so wonderful to see them all loving what they were doing and appreciating all the work each one of them was putting into the performance. If you ever have a chance to see the AME, I would definitely recommend it.