Peace Through Music
Every quarter, the UCSB Middle East Ensemble, a group that is comprised of a mix of university students, faculty, community members, and renowned guest artists performs an epic-length concert. The evening provides the equivalent of a magic carpet ride to the audience who is transported through music to lands with a musical timbre far from Santa Barbara. The program for this fall quarter concert, like many before, is filled with a dizzying list of music and dance revelations.
Two “Songs for Peace” are featured as a special part of the performance, a much-needed reminder as news reports tout anything but. Symbolically and musically diverse, Arabic and Hebrew selections will be performed. Another highlight is the special guest appearance by Syrian vocalist Abboud Bashir. Not only will Bashir perform traditional Syrian melodies, he will set score aside for some seldom-heard (in Lotte Lehman hall in any case) Syrian vocal improvisations.
Improvisation will highlight tradition, as the ensemble will also feature other seldom-heard gems, including songs from Egypt’s most famous female vocalist, the late Umm Kulthum. Guest vocalist Dalia Khan will take on “Tala`a l-Badru `Alayna,” while the ensemble will perform one of Kultum’s early compositions.
Music and dance are often inseparable, which is the case in the Middle East evenings. Soloist Kat Tully will perform and the ensemble dancers will circle the crescent for dances ranging from veils to drums. The intermission nearly always has baklava for sale — some of the sweetest around. But even without treats on the table, the ensemble never fails to dazzle.