Cal Poly Arab Music Ensemble to Perform with Guest Artists May 26

SAN LUIS OBISPO — The Cal Poly Arab Music Ensemble and guest artists will perform a program of music and dance from the Eastern Mediterranean and larger region at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 26, in the Spanos Theatre on campus.
With a membership that represents a wide range of majors on campus and professions off campus, the Cal Poly Arab Music Ensemble is a multi-instrumental orchestra and choir with vocal and instrumental soloists.

A special feature of the concert will be chamber ensemble (takht) performances by advanced members of the group including biological sciences major Kamal Ahmad on percussion, mathematics major Laila Zaidi on viola, music major Talia Phillips-Ortega on vocals, Music Department alumni Brandon Webb on percussion and Joel Demir on oud, and biological sciences and biochemistry alumna Linda Ashworth on qanun. Original compositions by Demir and Webb will also be featured on the program, and visiting ethnomusicologist Joseph Kinzer will direct a widely known traditional song that has adapted to local languages in its travels throughout and beyond the region — to Malaysia in this case.
Critically acclaimed guest artists who hail from music cultures that will be featured in the concert and who specialize in the associated performance practices will join the ensemble from the Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles areas. They include Ishmael on qanun (trapezoidal zither), Fathi Aljarrah on kamanja (violin) and Mohamed Radi on riqq (tambourine), daff (frame drum) and darabukka (goblet drum).
San Luis Obispo dance director Jenna Mitchell will lead the dance troupe in original choreographies that dialogue with the music. Cal Poly music Professor Ken Habib, a composer, performer and ethnomusicologist, will direct the concert.
The program includes some of the most celebrated repertoire of the region by composers, poets and artists including Umm Kulthum, Baligh Hamdi, Morsi Gamil Aziz, Sayyid Darwish, Badi` Khayri, AbdelHalim Hafez, Mohammed AbdelWahhab and Hussein El-Sayed of Egypt; Fairuz and the Rahbani Brothers of Lebanon; and Erkin Koray of Turkey.
The show will include contemporary works and traditional genres, including the long song, which ascended to prominence in Arab art music in the 20th century; the dabke, the traditional and most popular genre of Eastern Arab music and dance; and folksong selections from Armenia, Turkey, and nearby music cultures.
Additional repertoire to be performed comes from the shared music traditions of the Ottoman era, including the nine-beat karshilima that is popular in Armenian, Turkish and related music and dance. And vital to Arab art music, instrumental improvisation (taqsim) will be an integral part of the program contributing to the aesthetic and educational experience.
Tickets are $14 for the public and $9 for students. Event parking is sponsored by the Performing Arts Center. Tickets are sold at the Cal Poly Ticket Office between noon and 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. To order by phone, call 805-SLO-4TIX (805-756-4849).
The Music Department offers a 10 percent discount to patrons who buy season tickets to four of its events through the Cal Poly Ticket Office; a 15 percent discount is given on tickets to five or more events.
The concert is sponsored by Cal Poly’s Music Department, College of Liberal Arts and Instructionally Related Activities program. For more information, call the Music Department at 805-756-2406 or visit its calendar website at

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