Alwan Hosts Arabic Melodies

Yips Chinese buffet used to be the best part of Manhattan’s Beaver St. Thanks to New Sounds from the Arab Lands, Yips has found a competitor in The Alwan Center for the Arts.

Last Sunday, Alwan for the Arts hosted the musical group that is New Sounds from the Arab Lands. Comprised of five extremely talented members, New Sounds from the Arab Lands combines the sounds of both Western and Middle Eastern instruments to create a luscious collection of melodies powerful enough to captivate an entire room.

Photo Credit to Carlos Casas/Aga Khan Music Initiative

Photo Credit to Carlos Casas/Aga Khan Music Initiative

New Sounds from the Arab Lands’ New York debut set featured compositions by the group’s violinist, Jasser Haj Youssef as well as the clarinet player, Kinan Azmeh and the saxophonist, Basel Rajoub. Percussionist, Khaled Yassine and qanun player, Feras Charestan play integral parts in each piece as well.

As can be expected from various composers, the music written by each member of the group features a notably different style, which the quintet portrays with precision each time. Azmeh shows off expertly planned vibrato in Youssef’s compositions, and the group relishes in the beautiful, simultaneously executed crescendos of Azmeh’s Dream. If nothing else were clear during the performance, it’s obvious that these musicians very much enjoy playing together, a characteristic which makes their wonderful melodies all the more enjoyable for audience members.

While the collective sound of New Sounds from the Arab Lands is mesmerizing beyond words, the creation of this mutual music would not be possible without the obvious talent of each individual member. From the enthralling notes Charestan manipulates with his qanun to the amazing versatility of Youssef and his violin, each member clearly and masterfully brings an integral skill and talent to the music that is New Sounds from the Arab Lands.

As disappointed with myself as I am for not purchasing the CD after the show, I take comfort in the fact that samples of New Sounds from the Arab Lands as well as individual works by each member are available online. Thank God for the internet. Check out the vimeo sample included here as well as these various links for each artist and get a grip on exactly how compelling these guys are. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself hunting for travel buddies to Hanover, New Hampshire for the group’s next show at Dartmouth College, and if you go, pick me up a CD. I’ll pay you back. Promise.

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