Brooklyn Maqam will cap their first year of programming with a full night of music featuring three of the top Arabic musical groups from in and around NYC: the Tarab Ensemble, Nano Raies and Takht al-Nagham featuring classically-trained Syrian mutrib Wajde Ayub. This will be a rare chance to hear a variety of different traditions in Arabic music performed by master musicians and singers. A new community organization devoted to the middle-eastern music scene in New York, Brooklyn Maqam has been forging connections between musicians and enthusiastic audiences through their twice-monthly Brooklyn Maqam Hang events in Brooklyn.
Wajde Ayub is a classically-trained Syrian mutrib (principal vocalist, the one who conveys tarab). He was born in Aleppo, and started to sing and play the Oud at an early age. For over twenty-five years, he has performed with most of the leading musical figures of Aleppo, like Amer Amouri, Safwan Al-Abed, and Shadi Jamil. Having toured in Europe and Latin America, he has performed in the U.S. since 2006. His primary focus is on the wasla, an Arab musical suite that has a specific set of composed and improvised forms like the Muwashah, Taqsim, and Qasida, etc. Wajde Ayub is likely the most specialized singer of the wasla in the U.S. today. He was trained to memorize dozens of classic Arabic compositions which he recites and spontaneously improvises on during a performance; a particularly demanding task for a takht. The members of the ensemble are hence required to be intimately familiar with an extensive repertoire allowing them to seamlessly perform complex phrasing without the aid of musical notation.
Takht al-Nagham is a New York-based Arab ensemble featuring the sound of a traditional takht (Arab chamber music group). “Nagham” means melody in Arabic, and is also used as a synonym for the Arab Maqam system. Following the vision of its founder Samer Ali, the takht is committed to performing the classical Syrian repertoire with traditional acoustic instruments. In order to familiarize audiences in the U.S. with the original structure of the musical traditions, the takht presents its suites (called wasla) in the same manner that they were originally performed. The takht is the performing arm of the Syrian Music Preservation Initiative, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that aims to introduce audiences to the performing arts that are native to the city of Aleppo, a historic center of Arab musical culture. The takht has featured the Aleppan mutrib Wajde Ayub at Alwan for the Arts and at the Scandinavia House in New York City, and the Syrian soprano Lubana al-Quntar at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.
Founded in 1998, the Tarab Ensemble is an ensemble of New York-based musicians who focus on the classical Arabic repertoire, with special emphasis on the Andalusi Muwashah and Sufi repertoire while also exploring traditional folk music from various regions of the Arab world.
- Taoufik Ben Amor is a Tunisian vocalist, percussionist and oud player. Taoufik started learning percussion at an early age, then learned the Malouf (Andalusian repertoire) and sang with ensembles and choirs for many years. He has studied the oud and the Arabic maqam system with various teachers such as Mohamed Labbad, Jamal Aslan and Simon Shaheen and has been an active performer in the US and Canada for over two decades.
- Ramzi Edlibi (Tabla, Riq, Daf and Dance) began his study of Arab dance and ballet at an early age in his native Lebanon with Mrs. Jarrar and Mr. Caracalla, historic figures in the development of Lebanese dance for the stage. Besides Edlibi’s formal training, social dances and music, such as debkah, were a part of everyday and night life. Edlibi went on to perform dance with the leading vocalists and dance companies of the Arab World such as Feiruz, Sabah, Wadi Al-Safi and Caracalla Dance Theatre.
- New York based Palestinian-American Zafer Tawil is a virtuosic performer on the oud, violin, qanun, and a full range of Arab percussion instruments. He has performed with numerous musicians ranging from Sting to Arab music greats such as Simon Shaheen, Chab Mami, and Bassam Saba to avant-garde composer/performer Elliot Sharp, among others. Zafer has composed music for a number of films including the Oscar-nominated Jonathan Demme film Rachel Getting Married.
- Born and raised in Tunisia, Marouen Allam began his musical journey playing the guitar at the age of fifteen as a self-taught musician. Few years later he switched to the electric bass and started playing with blues and funk bands around the country. Marouen started his academic education in 2004 when he joined the Tunisian-Belgium jazz school project hosted by the Mediterranean Arab Music Centre in Sidi Bou Said in Tunisia. In summer 2005, he got a scholarship for an internship in Belgium. In 2009, he followed a bachelor degree courses at the Prins Claus conservatorium in the Netherlands studying with some of the top players and teachers around Europe and the USA.
Nano Raies is a singer and songwriter originally from Homs, Syria. She fled the war in Syria and came to the U.S. to pursue her passion in music, becoming the first Syrian female to attend Berklee College of Music. Nano sings in English, Arabic, and French, and her style is a fusion of Middle Eastern Arabic music with classical pop, gypsy jazz, Latin, and bossa nova. Nano recently performed with the world-renowned band pink martini. Other recent appearances include a performance during the World Bank’s first musical performance at the opening of the Security-Development Nexus 2018 Spring Meeting, as well as a special cover release of the Beatles’s song Drive My Car, rewritten and rearranged in honor of Saudi Women receiving the right to drive.