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Arab American Composers Highlighted in Crossover Performance

posted on: Oct 6, 2018

Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings, Arab American National Museum present Khashb wa Kheit خشب وخيط

Arab American Composers Highlighted in Crossover Performance



Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings (DCWS) will be kicking off its 2018-19 Signature Series with Khashb wa Kheit خشب وخيط: An Evening of Chamber Music by Arab American Composers at 8 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Arab American National Museum.

The museum is at 13624 Michigan Ave. in Dearborn.

This collaboration between DCWS and the museum, consists of musicians performing several chamber works from prominent Arab American composers, including Suad Bushnaq, Mohammed Fairouz and metro Detroit native Michael Ibrahim.

“[DCWS] has been interested in working with the Arab American National Museum for quite some time, and this combination of our musicians with prominent Arab American voices in the music community seemed like the perfect fit,” Maury Okun, President of DCWS said. “Not only do we get to bring our organizations together for one special event, but this performance gives both our performers and audience the opportunity to experience incredible works they may not have otherwise.”

Literally translated to Wood and Strings, Khashb wa Kheit خشب وخيط is the first collaboration between DCWS and AANM.

“This concert has been a long time coming,” Kathryn Grabowski, AANM’s humanities program coordinator said. “Based on our research, it will be the first contemporary chamber music concert comprised entirely of music by Arab American composers, all of whom are living. Sourcing the music was the most exciting part for our team, as there is a plethora of amazing pieces to choose from.”

The works being performed consist of several instruments from the western classical music tradition – such as the violin, viola, cello and clarinet – alongside traditional Arabic instruments like the oud in a merging of ideas from Middle Eastern, Arab and western music. While deeply rooted in traditional music of the Middle East, the instrumentation and composition of the pieces defy categorizing them as only that, allowing them to bridge the gap between western and eastern music while also defining them as works of chamber music.

“I believe that, just as other communities of color, Arab American representation in the classical music world could be improved, especially in North America as I feel that there’s more representation in Europe,” composer Suad Bushnaq, whose 2017 work, The Borrowed Dress, will be featured said. “Personally, I’ve been blending Middle Eastern and Arab influences in my music with western elements since before becoming an Arab American, and having been classically trained on the piano since the age of five and having lived in a house filled with my father’s classical music cassettes and vinyl records while also listening to Arabic music, my exposure to western music was simultaneous to my exposure to Arabic music.”

Each work performed during the event has a significance from both a musical and personal perspective, as each piece’s overall message is fully representative of the identity of the respective composer. In Bushnaq’s case, language is used as a vehicle for emphasizing her identity to listeners.

“I use both of my languages in my writing extensively and I’ve never seen it as a struggle but rather an opportunity to create more color and interest in my work,” Bushnaq said. “It’s been my mandate since I started composing to blend both worlds, and I’m always fascinated by music that blends two or more musical languages together. My goal is to create beautiful, mesmerizing music that utilizes both languages in a complementary way that lets each of these languages shine.”