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Cal Poly Arab Music Ensemble to perform fall concert Dec. 2 

Arab Music Ensemble

Concert will feature the world premiere of a new work by ensemble director Ken Habib

– The Cal Poly Arab Music Ensemble will give its fall concert at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2, in the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center. Among the features of the ensemble’s season opener will be the world premiere of “Tahiyya” (“Salutation”) by Ken Habib, the ensemble’s director.

“It’s an instrumental composition of Arab art music that explores extended melodic and metric territory in a relatively concise fashion,” Habib said of the piece. “It features an interplay between contrasting tetrachords and different metric modes along with a melodic improvisation at the center of the piece. In the end, a complement of diverse musical materials may be heard in a thoughtful balance.”

The concert will open with a suite of instrumental and vocal pieces selected from Arab art and popular music and celebrated across the Eastern Mediterranean, including classic examples of the muwashshah, a genre of poetry and music that arose in 10th-century Andalusia in the southern Iberian Peninsula.

The program will also include a Romanian folksong and a Turkish instrumental piece that reflects the historical interconnectedness of West Asia, North Africa, and Europe.

Composers, poets, and artists to be represented on the program include Ahmad Abu Khalil al-Qabbani, Anton Pann, Elias Rahbani, Fairuz, George Abdo, the Rahbani Brothers, Sabah Fakhri, Sayyid Darwish, Tatyos Efendi, Toufic El Bacha, and Ziad Rahbani.

Several critically acclaimed guest artists will return to join the ensemble on stage:

  •  Ishmael, a renowned qanun (zither) player who performs repertoire from across Southwest Asia and North Africa, which originates in his Assyrian heritage;
  • Fathi Aljarrah, kamanja (violin), a master performer of Arab art and popular music from Aleppo, an artistic center of Syria and of larger Arab society, and home to the eminent Sabah Fakhri with whom he toured internationally; and
  • Faisal Zedan, a virtuoso percussionist from Syria with a deep command of wide-ranging musical styles from across Southwest Asia and North Africa, who will play riqq (tambourine), daff (frame drum), and darabukka (goblet drum).


San Luis Obispo dance director Jenna Mitchell will lead the dance troupe in original choreography that dialogues with the music in a longstanding collaboration of bringing music and dance from the region to Cal Poly.

The Arab Music Ensemble is an orchestra and choir with vocal and instrumental soloists. Its membership represents a range of majors on campus and professions off campus. The dance troupe has a similar composition and has collaborated with the Arab Music Ensemble since its formation in 2006.

Tickets are $15 and $20 for the public and $10 for students. Event parking is sponsored by the PAC. Tickets are available 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 event is sponsored by Cal Poly’s Music Department, College of Liberal Arts, and Instructionally Related Activities program.

For more information, visit the music department’s calendar website, email, or call (805) 756-2406.


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