The second guest artist of Al-Bustan’s 2014 Spring Series featured Fathy Salama, a Grammy and BBC Award-winning producer, composer, arranger, and pianist. Salama spent five days in Philadelphia, meeting with local school and community members before capping off his visit in a concert with Al-Bustan Takht Ensemble at the Trinity Center for Urban Life.
The event opened with Intro Ilaria-Camel Road, combining traditional Arab music with a contemporary jazz structure, masterfully-performed as a duet between Salama on piano and Hanna Khoury on violin. The piece set the tone for an afternoon of music that was at times up-beat and at others calm. Salama and Al-Bustan Takht Ensemble played a number of Fathy’s most popular compositions, including “Nubi” and “Amm.” As the Al-Bustan Takht Ensemble embraced jazz structures, the breadth of their talent was evidenced by their masterful performance. After all, Arab and jazz music share improvisation in common; naturally, then, the program featured solos by each Ensemble member. Hanna Khoury (violin), Kinan Idnawi (oud), and Hicham Chami (qanun) danced up and down scales, giving the audience a huge range of pitches. Kinan Abou-afach’s cello, plucked in a manner similar to a double bass jazz, was well suited for the jazzy elements of the pieces. Hafez Kotain’s percussive rhythms provided the backdrop and a distinct Arab feel to many of Salama’s compositions.
Salama’s original compositions and performance showcased both a variety of tempo and style and an incredible personal touch. The up-tempo jazz pieces to smooth melodies reverberated in the Great Hall of Trinity Center. The program’s variety worked particularly well; as one audience member noted, “the calmer moments in the performance provided a pensive, still feeling to the music, which also made the enthusiastic, passionate moments of the concert all the more exciting.” Salama played with such a passion for and knowledge of his instrument that each composition seemed to be an extension of the artist and his feelings.
Photos by Dana Scherer:
triumphant harmonies gave the music a powerful, emotionally driven quality.
each member of the ensemble seemed to be passing off melodic themes from one instrument to another in a kaleidoscopic and very engaging experience.
Salama’s piano provided a luscious harmonic base for the Ensemble’s soaring melodies and driving percussion.
More reactions from the audience
Watch video clips from the concert:
This program was made possible through generous support of the William Penn Foundation and Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Arts’ Building Bridges Program, and Philadelphia Cultural Fund, with sponsorship from University of Pennsylvania’s Greenfield Intercultural Center and Middle East Center.