Al-Bustan’s Spring Concert Series held its May event, a high-energy performance of Arab and Latin Rhythms featuring Puerto Rican percussionist Rolando Morales-Matos, at the Trinity Center for Urban Life.
Morales-Matos is a master percussionist who plays/assistant conducts with Disney’s The Lion King on Broadway, and performs and records with various Latin and jazz groups throughout New York City and many other cities. In addition to his performing and recording career, Rolando teaches at Temple University, New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, and Curtis Institute of Music.
Morales-Matos opened the evening with a solo piece from his album “From the Earth” with a spread of percussive instruments adorning the dais at Trinity Center. He then was joined by the Moffet Drummers, a group of thirty Moffet School students enrolled in a weekly after-school percussion class with master percussionist Hafez Kotain. Having rehearsed with Rolando-Morales earlier in the week in a workshop at their school, the students performed a wonderful all-percussion Arab/Latin arrangement with Morales-Matos and Kotain.
The rest of the evening featured Morales-Matos with Al-Bustan Takht Ensemble in a varied and energetic program highlighting compositions by Ibrahim Al-Aryan, Raffael Hernandez, our own Kinan Abou-afach and Hafez Kotain, and past Al-Bustan guest artists Fathy Salama and Simon Shaheen. Additionally, “Time for Two” was a beautiful showcase of two master percussionists Morales-Matos and Kotain in a duet that brought the house down. The concert ended with a rendition of Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from The Lion King and the lively “El Cumbanchero”.
Also on exhibit at Trinity Center was the artwork of Moffet students. Many of the Moffet Drummers also participate in after-school visual art classes with Al-Bustan Teaching Artist Nancy Sophy. In the weeks prior, these students listened to tracks from Rolando’s “From the Earth” album and interpreted the ideas of “Earth”, “Fire”, and “Wind” through painting and drawing.
The concert was a fitting time to announce the newly established Al-Bustan Funds, which allow donors to earmark their funds to their favorite Al-Bustan program. The evening ended with a discussion where the musicians answered questions about composing, rehearsing, and their favorite color (from one of the Moffet Drummers—Rolando prefers blue, for the record). It was a great way to end the Spring Concert Series, and we’re all looking forward to another exciting season in the Fall!