Al-Bustan Music Concert Series: 2011-12

Posted On:
07 August, 2011

Al-Bustan Music Concert Series: Fall 2011-Spring 2012

In Fall 2011 Al-Bustan launched a concert series presenting Al-Bustan Takht Ensemble, a resident music ensemble performing classical Arab music repertoire, featuring a different guest soloist for each program. Led by Music Director Hanna Khoury, the ensemble brings together musicians of exceptional experience, providing opportunities to hear exemplary live Arab music on a regular basis in Philadelphia.  All concerts were presented at Trinity Center for Urban Life 22nd & Spruce St in Philadelphia.

This Concert Series was made possible by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as part of its Knight Arts Challenge, with support from the Sparkplug Foundation, Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Wells Fargo Foundation, and individual donors.


Youssef Kassab
Youssef Kassab

Saturday October 29, 2011 at 8 pm
Youssef Kassab – singer
Music of the Golden Age of Syria and Egypt


Kassab, a Syrian-American, began learning the oud and studying voice at early age which he pursued at the Damascus Conservatory, specializing in qanun and the classical Arabic music vocal repertoire. He recorded and performed with the Syrian Radio Orchestra as a vocalist. Since moving to New York City in 1970, he has performed in concerts and festivals throughout the United States, Canada, and Central America. Kassab is one of the master performers of classical forms such as the Arabic Muwashshahat (classical Arabic/Andalusian vocal music), Al-Qudud Al-Halabiyya (traditional vocal repertoire from Aleppo, Syria), and 19th- and early 20th-century Egyptian vocal music.

A.J. Racy
A.J. Racy

Friday November 18, 2011 at 8 pm
Sunday November 20, 2011 at 4 pm
A.J. Racy – composer/musician/scholar
Instrumental Arab Music, featuring compositions by A.J. Racy


Racy is a performer, composer and Professor of Ethnomusicology at UCLA. Born in Lebanon, Racy is internationally recognized for his extraordinary musicianship and his numerous publications, including his award-winning book, Making Music in the Arab World: The Culture and Artistry of Tarab (Cambridge University Press, 2003). He is a master of many traditional instruments particularly the nay, a reed-flute, and the buzuq, a long-necked fretted lute. He has appeared in major U.S. theaters, such as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and the Hollywood Bowl and at international venues, including the Beiteddine Festival in Lebanon and the Commonwealth Institute in London. He has composed and performed for the Kronos Quartet and the Sacramento Symphony Orchestra, as well as for feature and documentary films. His CD releases include three Lyrichord albums, Ancient Egypt, Taqasim, and Mystical Legacies, and Caravan with Kronos Quartet. He has inspired a generation of Western and Arab musicians to study and perform Middle Eastern musical traditions. Racy is the recipient of numerous honors and tributes from a variety of cultural institutions for his outstanding artistry and his continuous work toward greater intercultural understanding and cooperation.

Suheir Hammad
Suheir Hammad

Friday December 9, 2011  at 7:30 pm
Suheir Hammad – poet
An Evening of Poetry and Music
with Philadelphia Arab Music Ensemble


Suheir Hammad is a Palestinian-American poet and author. Born in Amman, Jordan to Palestinian refugee parents, she emigrated with her family to Brooklyn, New York City when she was five years old. She attended Hunter College where she won the Audre Lorde Writing Award for her poetry. Hammad’s publications include ZaatarDiva; Born Palestinian, Born Black; Drops of This Story; and breaking poems which received in 2009 the American Book Award and the Arab-American Book Award. Hammad has also received a Morris Center for Healing Poetry Award, a New York Mills Artist Residency, and a Van Lier Fellowship. Her work has been widely anthologized and also adapted for theater. Her produced plays include Blood Trinity and breaking letter(s), and she wrote the text for the multimedia performance Re-Orientalism. Hammad played a lead acting role in Salt of this Sea, a 2008 Cannes Film Festival Official Selection. She was an original writer and performer in the Tony-winning Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, and was recently an Artist-in-Residency at the NYU’s Asian/Pacific/American Institute.

Kareem Roustom
Kareem Roustom

Saturday February 25, 2012 8 pm
Kareem Roustom – composer
“Abu Jameel’s Daughter” US premiere and film scores excerpts


Born in Syria, Kareem Roustom is an Emmy nominated composer who has composed music for film, television, the concert hall and album projects. Steeped in the musical traditions of the Arab Near East and trained in Western music, Roustom is a musically bi-lingual composer who has collaborated with a wide variety of artists ranging from the Philadelphia Orchestra to Shakira. An active composer of film music, he has scored a number of short and feature-length films, and his score for the PBS documentary “The mosque in Morgantown” earned him an Emmy nomination in the 31st Annual News & Documentary Emmy awards. In June of 2010 Roustom was awarded a fellowship to the prestigious Sundance Film Composers Lab held annually at the Sundance Institute. As a concert composer Roustom has been commissioned by groups such as the Philadelphia Orchestra, The Boston Children’s Chorus, clarinetist Kinan Azmeh and the Damascus Festival Chamber Ensemble, among others.

Sonia M’Barek
Sonia M’Barek

Sunday March 25, 2012 4 pm
Sonia M’Barek – singer
Music of Andalusian Muwashahat


Born in Sfax, Tunisia, Sonia M’barek first performed to a live audience at the age of nine and was nationally recognized on TV in Tunis when she was twelve. Attending the national conservatory of music in Tunis, she graduated with a degree in Arab music in 1986. After her degree, she spent most of her time singing in musical theater productions such as Asker Ellil, Ete 61, and Didon, as well as the sound tracks for the film The Dance of Fire. Working with Tunisian oud players, she has presented more than thirty concerts of classical Arab music in a performance tour called Tarab. In 1999, after recording Takht, a CD which was widely distributed in Europe, the United States, and Japan, M’Barek became internationally recognized and began teaching and participating in global conferences, workshops, and master classes showcasing her keen ability with Arabic singing. In 2005, she was nominated by the Ministry of Culture in Tunisia to serve as the chair of the National Festival of Tunisian Music. She has performed in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Egypt, and Lebanon, including a tour in 2009 with Simon Shaheen at the Kennedy Center’s Arabesque Festival in Washington DC and other cities in the US.

Maron Khoury
Maron Khoury

Sunday April 29, 2012 4 pm
Maron Khoury – flutist
Western/Arab Classical Music


Maron Khoury, a virtuoso flutist born in Tarshiha, Israel, was appointed to the second flute position with The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York City at age 20. Khoury started playing the flute at the age of 11; three years later, he was admitted to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia to study with renowned flutist Jeffrey Khaner, and graduated in 2009. Khoury has performed under the direction of Maestro James Levine, Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim, Otto Werner Mueller, and Christoph Eschenbach among many others. Prior to enrollment at Curtis, Khoury studied with Eyal Ein-Habar and Uri Shoham (Israel Philharmonic), Sara Andon (Idyllwild Arts Academy), and David Shostak (Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.) Khoury is a recipient of several grants from the Curtis Institute of Music and the Charles M. Kanev Memorial Fellowship. In addition, he is a winner of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation Scholarship and the Schoen Fellowship Grant in honor of Charlotte White.
This concert presents Maron Khoury in a performance of Western and Arab Classical Music with the amazingly talented Trio:
Hanna Khoury on violin, Kinan Abou-afach on cello, and Hafez El Ali Kotain on percussion