UCSB Middle East Ensemble Performs at

California State University Long Beach

25 October 2003


Concert Review by Laith Ulaby

I recently had the pleasure to attend a concert by the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) Middle East ensemble.  The concert was a fundraiser for the scholarship fund of the California State University, Long Beach, Department of Comparative World Literature and Classics.  The ensemble, under the direction of Professor Scott Marcus, performed a wide range of works from Egypt, Lebanon and Turkey, which included instrumental, vocal and dance pieces.

The first half of the concert opened with an Egyptian Folkloric Dance medley accompanied by dancers and Professor Marcus on the mizmar (a double reed oboe like instrument).  Along with a suite of classical Egyptian works (which included the singing of Dr. Mohamed Moharram), an Egyptian children’s song and two other dance numbers, the second half was highlighted by the rarely heard ‘Abd Al-Halim Hafiz song “Ya Hali” which borrows from the Khaliji, or Arabian Gulf, style of music.  There was also a crowd-pleasing darrabukah (goblet shaped hand drum) solo by Zaiyad Marcus.

The second half of the concert highlighted two singers.  The first was Ken Habib performing “Ya Mirsal il-Marasil” and “Il-Bint ish-Shalabiyyah”, two songs synonymous with the Lebanese singer Fairuz.  The other singer was Dr. Mohamed Moharram performing two contemporary Egyptian popular songs “Hilwin Min Youmna”, popularized by Sayyid Makkawi and “il-Kalam Dah”, popularized by Hakim.  Several dance numbers, including the finale a medley of Arabic influenced Turkish Music coordinated by Professor Sonia Seeman, capped off the second half.

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The crowed, whose diversity was mirrored in the ensemble itself, responded very enthusiastically to the diverse repertoire of the ensemble.  Professor Marcus, speaking to the audience, said the ensemble was attempting to give a sampling of the diverse music cultures in the Middle East. Indeed, many were pleasantly surprised to hear the children’s song and popular selections that might not normally be included on such a program.  After the concert the ensemble mixed with the ensemble as everyone shared a selection of Arabic food to end a great concert for a worthwhile cause.


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