Cultural centre celebrates near-forgotten Arab folk music

A celebration of Arab folk music by the New York-based group Tarab is on the bill Saturday as part of the 2009-2010 York-Noor Lecture Series.

From Rabat to Baghdad: A Journey with Arab Folk Music will take place May 15 at 7:30pm at the Noor Cultural Centre, 123 Wynford Dr. (Don Valley Parkway and Eglinton Avenue).

Right: Taoufiq Ben Amor

Between efforts to preserve classical music and the rise of commercial pop, Arab folk music fell through the cracks. The many anonymous poems and melodies, which express the immense diversity of the Arab world and the rich variation in its regional sensibilities, were central to many forms of celebrations and social occasions. Tarab, founded in 1998, will perform such pieces from many parts of the Arab world in an evening celebrating this almost forgotten repertoire.

Left: Ramzi El-Edlibi

The musicians who form Tarab are Taoufiq Ben Amor on vocals, oud and percussion; Tareq Abboushi on buzuq; Michael Ibrahim on oud, nay and mizwij; and Ramzi El-Edlibi on tabla, riq and daf, who also dances. They study and perform the classical Arabic vocal and instrumental repertoire, including such genres as samai, lunga and dulab, and with special emphasis on the Andalusi Muwashah and Sufi repertoire.

The ensemble also explores traditional folk music from various regions of the Arab world. Importance is given to improvisation, both vocal and instrumental, to allow each musician to explore the maqamat, or scales. The sets performed are generally in the form of a wasla, which is a suite of several pieces all sharing the same maqam.

Right: Tareq Abboushi

Since its founding, Tarab has performed at several venues and festivals, such as Symphony Space, The Great Hall at The Cooper Union, The Joseph Papp Public Theater, The Bowery Ballroom, The Balkan Music Festival, Club Passim, the University of Michigan and the Noor Cultural Centre. Tarab has also composed soundtracks for two documentaries and one play.

Tickets for From Rabat to Baghdad: A Journey with Arab Folk Music cost $20 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. For tickets contact, or 416-444-7148 ext. 222.

For more information on the York-Noor Lecture Series, visit the Noor Cultural Centre Web site.