Arabic music meets klezmer for Salaam-Shalom Music Project
By Myrna Petlicki
Music is the universal language. You’ll be convinced it’s true if you attend a concert by the Salaam-Shalom Music Project on April 23 at Evanston’s SPACE.
“We started it around the time of 9/11,” said Lori Lippitz, organizer of the interfaith Arabic-Middle Eastern-Klezmer fusion band. “The Jewish community and the Muslim community exist alongside each other in places like Chicago but there are only random opportunities to interact and getting to know people is the first way to undo stereotypes.”
Lippitz, who heads the Klezmer Music Foundation, stresses that the band isn’t comprised of “interfaith activists. It’s just regular people from the Jewish community, the Muslim community the Christian community, all of whom are proficient musicians who were interested in the idea of collaborating and performing together.”
Vocalist and guitarist Lippitz, violinist Alex Koffman and clarinetist Sophie Creutz also perform with the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band which Lippitz founded in 1983. The other singers and musicians in the group learned about the band through word of mouth.
The Salaam-Shalom Music Project’s performances include 9-10 musicians and 2-3 dancers. They present songs that have been suggested by members and practiced at Lippitz’s Skokie studio. “With every rehearsal, we are becoming a little more expert in each other’s music,” Lippitz said. “At our next program, we will be presenting what we have learned together which includes how traditional Arabic instruments sound when they interpret Jewish music. How the klezmer, clarinet and violin sound when they focus in on sounding like they belong to an Egyptian orchestra.”
Vocalist and songwriter Yasmin Ali was attracted to the project three years ago, “not only by the diversity of the people, which is very admirable,” she said, “but the individual traits that they brought to the table. They have a passion not just for advancing cooperation and artistic collaboration, but also getting to know each other and wanting to delve into each other’s musical and artistic traditions.”
At the April 23 concert, Ali will sing one of her original compositions, “Mere Lab Pe,” which is in Urdu, the songwriter’s parents’ native tongue from Pakistan. “It is almost like a prayer to remind yourself of the passion that brought you to a certain point in life and never forget the hardship and struggle, and to pay homage to it,” Ali said.
“It’s a delight every time we get together,” said flutist Kim Fleuchaus. “I’ve been playing Arabic music for 10 or 15 years. For me, it’s a wonderful chance to do more of this music that I love as well as music I’m learning more about, which is Klezmer music, and to really get to know my colleagues with different cultures and backgrounds.”
The Salaam-Shalom Music Project
When: 1 p.m. April 23
Where: SPACE, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston
Information: (847) 492-8860; evanstonspace.com