Award-winning scholars and performers coming to SUNY Fredonia

The State University of New York at Fredonia School of Music announces two free community concerts of traditional Arabic music on June 16 and June 20 at 8 p.m., as part of the week long Arabic Music Academy. The Academy’s Opening Concert on Monday will feature award-winning scholars and performers of Arabic music, George Dimitri Sawa, Suzanne Meyers Sawa and Michel Merhej Baklouk.

The concert will feature the qanun (Arabic psaltery), the darabukkah (goblet shaped drum) and tambourines. The repertoire will consist of instrumental pieces from the 17th-century Ottoman court and from 19th- and 20th- century Cairo and Aleppo; Arabic sufi, folkloric and popular music as well as improvisations on the qanun and riqq. The concert will also include an illustrated history of the qanun, historical roots of the iqa’at (Arabic rhythms) and fundamental elements of Arabic musical aesthetics going back to al-Farabi (d. 339/950).

Created in 1973 by George Sawa and the late Ebrahim Eleish (d. 1993), The Traditional Arabic Music Ensemble performs traditional Arabic music repertoire. The instrumental repertoire includes the sama’i, bashraf (peshrev), longa, tahmila, taqsim, folk and classical songs and dances of Egypt and Syria. The ensemble has performed in venues across Canada, the USA and Europe and has been broadcast by the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation).

A free pre-concert presentation at 7:45 p.m. in Rosch Recital Hall will feature photographs and research by local resident, Penny Williams-Yaqub, from her travels and work in the Middle East and North Africa, 1966-86. Penny Williams-Yaqub is a Canadian artist, born in Toronto where she graduated from the Ontario College of Art. After several years’ experience as an artist working for the Stratford Shakespearean Festival and the Ontario Center of Science, she traveled to Beirut, Lebanon where she lived and worked for twenty years. This presentation features photographs taken during her travels in the Middle East and North Africa. From 1966 to 1986, she worked as a freelance artist for UNRWA, UNICEF, Save the Children, Aramco World Magazine, Kuwait’s Iftah Ya Simsim, and the governments of Jordan, Lebanon and Qatar. Her travels also took her to Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Iraq, Jordan, and Syria. In 1974, she was granted a Ford Foundation Grant to study Arab Silver Jewelry in Yemen and Iraq. Currently, Williams-Yaqub lives in Fredonia with her mathematician husband, Fawzi Yaqub.

She is very pleased to be invited to be a part of the Arabic Music program, and to share her love for the Arab world.