Join us for this inspiring concert on Saturday, November 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Audiences throughout the US have been moved by this very special Listen for Life program, bringing together acclaimed artists from Israel, Palestine, Jordan & Syria, who perform together on stage in a musical statement for peace. Bound by shared stories of struggle & triumph, song & liturgy, Middle Grounds is a program that promotes peace through the uniting & healing power of music.
We are honored to have the following five internationally renowned musicians grace our stage.
(oud, violin, voice) Iraqi/Israeli
An award-winning Iraqi-Jewish composer, violinist, oud player and singer, Yair Dalal is a noted expert on the Babylonian musical heritage and the music of the Bedouin (the Sinai desert nomads). Besides his musical endeavors, Dalal is also a peace activist, devoting much of his time and energy to helping to remove ideological barriers between different cultures and, in particular between Jews and Arabs. Dalal performed at the Nobel Peace Prize gala concert in 1994 honoring the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat. He was prominently featured in Benjamin Brinner’s 2009 novel, Playing across a Divide: Israeli-Palestinian Musical Encounters.
Israeli-born Ronit Widmann Levy is a classically trained vocalist who performs Ladino romanzas, cantigas, and coplas. She has devoted herself to uncovering the cultural and musical connections between music from Jews who were expelled from Spain (the “Sephardic” tradition) and the Bedouin nomads of the Sinai desert. She sings in both Hebrew and Ladino (a rarely heard Judaeo-Spanish language). Critics have consistently praised Israeli-born Ronit Widmann-Levy’s singing, writing that her “naturally extensive range shows fine-spun altitudes” (Washington Times).
(santur, percussion) Iranian
Saman Mahmoudi was born in Tehran, Iran. He started playing Persian drum (tonbak) at the age 5. At the age 10, he began learning the santur under the tutelage of masters Mehdi Setayeshgar and Pashang Kamkar and continued to do so for one year prior to his departure from Iran. Saman came to the US in 1987 and continued his work and music, mainly improvisation based on radif. He had the privilege of performing with many grand masters in Persian classical music such as Mohammad Reza Shajarian, Mohammad Reza Lotfi, Hoshang Zarif, Siamak Shajarian, and the late Parviz Meshkatian and Jalil Shahnaz. He has dedicated himself to performance, instructions, and has been a part of several peace-building performance initiatives.
SAMI ABU SHUMAYS
(rahaba, violin, vocals) Palestinian
Born in the U.S. to a Palestinian father and American mother, Sami Abu Shumays graduated with a degree in Western music composition and theory from Harvard. Tracing his roots back to the Arab World, while on Fulbright Fellowship he immersed himself in the musical cultures of Cairo, Egypt, and Aleppo, Syria. He has also studied in the U.S. with Youssef Kassab, Simon Shaheen, and Jihad Racy. A multi-talented performer on violin, vocals, and Rababa (an Egyptian spike fiddle), Sami co-founded and directs Zikrayat (http://www.zikrayatmusic.com/), an ensemble dedicated to presenting the music and dance of the Arab World. Zikrayat has performed at Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, GlobalFEST, and elsewhere.
A master percussionist in the Syrian classical tradition, Faisal Zedan plays riqq (tambourine), derbakki (goblet drum), and tar (frame drum) with equal mastery. Born in Oum D’Baib, Syria, Zedan immediately fell in love with the sound of the derbakki. After intensive studies in both Arabic classical and contemporary music, he gradually became a master of three percussion instruments, the derbakki, the tar and the riqq. He moved to the USA in 1992 and joined the acclaimed UCLA Near East Music Ensemble. Faisal has since become a founder of several music groups: Kan Zaman, Youm, the It Talaata percussion group, and his most recent group Ajyal, which preserves and performs diverse genres of traditional music and dance from the Arab world.