The Cal Poly Arab Music Ensemble will be performing a wide range of art and popular music focusing on the eastern Mediterranean on Friday March 5 at 8 p.m. inside the Pavilion at the Performing Arts Center. Combining vocalists and dancers with traditional instruments, the performance offers a unique viewpoint into the musical culture of the region.
The Arab Music Ensemble is directed by assistant professor Kenneth Habib whose primary area of expertise is ethnomusicology with a focus on the Middle East. Habib said ethnomusicology looks at music of the entire world and values cultural perspectives. He said the music of the region is rooted in rhythmic modes and provides room for both instrumental and vocal improvisation.
Habib said the goal of the ensemble is to open the eyes and ears of the campus and San Luis Obispo community to a different style of music. He said he wants people to have a greater appreciation of world music instead of concentrating on music from the classical Euro-American style. Habib said he hopes people in attendance will learn to appreciate the nature of the Middle Eastern style of music.
“It’s art music,” Habib said. “The music is a modal music rhythmically and represents genres that are among the most continuously performed genres in the world.”
There will be 41 members of the Cal Poly Arab Ensemble performing and it is comprised of both students and community members. All Cal Poly students and community members can participate in the group.
Helene Shalhoub attended an earlier concert and fell in love with the performance since she enjoys singing so decided to join. She said it is great that the ensemble is open to community members and not just students since there are many Middle Easterners living in the community.
“Everybody here (in the ensemble) loves music and has music inside them,” Shalhoub said. “It’s like a huge friendship and puts our art and feeling into the community. It’s just beautiful.”
In the upcoming performance on Friday, Cal Poly students and community members will be joined by five guest artists including three members of the Kan Zaman Ensemble from Southern California. Kan Zaman is a nonprofit organization designed to entertain the general public through traditional Arab music. Also performing will be Bridget Robbins, a New York-based performer as well as teacher.
Habib said the five guest artists are the most they have ever had for the performance. In general, the artists add to the educational experience of the group as they are able to play alongside the professionals he said.
“What they bring is expertise in ways that we couldn’t expect to field in our own ensemble,” Habib said. “We can learn a tremendous amount from watching their fingers move on the instruments and how they carry themselves on stage.”
Habib also said the guest artists will perform with the ensemble for the entire show. He said the performance will feature only Arabic music in Habib’s fourth year of directing the ensemble.
Many of the performers enjoy being able to bring the culture of the Middle East to the community.
Kellie Barragan, a music major, said many people are not exposed to Arab music.
“At this moment, the Middle East has kind of a negative connotation to it,” Barragan said. “It just shows you the power of music. It can bring people together from different backgrounds.”
Barragan said she gets nervous on stage before a performance, but the feeling usually wears off as she gets into the music. She said there is such a great feeling after the performance knowing that all the preparation paid off.
“It’s like acing a paper,” she said.
Tickets are $10 for the public and $8 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at the Performing Arts Ticket office. The Cal Poly Music Department and College of Liberal Arts are sponsoring the Arab Music Ensemble.