Performance: Ahel El Nagam @ Sweet Surrender Dessert Cafe (Louisville, KY)

Ahel El Nagam
Ahel El Nagam performing at Shiraz Mediterranean Grill in Louisville 24 July 2009

If you are reading this, it’s because it was written earlier today and set to future post as I will be performing at the Sweet Surrender Dessert Cafe in Louisville  (KY) when this autoposts.  The group I’ll be playing with is Ahel El Nagam, a Kentuckiana based Classical Arabic music group.

Ahel El Nagam’s bio:

Ahel El Nagam means, “people of the tune.” We are a new Middle Eastern music band in Louisville, KY. We were founded in April of 2007 and we are working hard to develop a repertoire full of traditional and classical Middle Eastern songs. We are available for cultural events, private parties, and shows at restaurants and coffee houses around Louisville as well as the greater tri-state (Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio) area.

More info about us and my relationship with the group may be found in a previous post.

Sweet Surrender is having a fundraiser for for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Details for the day long event follow:

On Thursday, March 24, Sweet Surrender Dessert Café will host a fundraiser to benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. All day, from 10 AM to 10 PM, a sampling of 10 desserts will be offered for $15 per person. Coffee is included. A portion of the entire day’s proceeds will be given to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Team in Training.

A whole 10” cake and other prizes will also be raffled off. Tickets for the raffle can be purchased for $2.00 each throughout the week. All of the proceeds from the raffle will go directly to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

In addition to great desserts and great prizes, live music will begin at 8 PM.

Continue reading “Performance: Ahel El Nagam @ Sweet Surrender Dessert Cafe (Louisville, KY)”

Performance: Balkan Music @ Cafe Django

Kermes (Me with Maja Radovanlija) performing at the Runcible Spoon Gypsy Market in Bloomington, Indiana 16 October 2011

If you are reading this, it’s because it was written earlier today and set to future post as I will be performing at the Cafe D’jango in Bloomington (IN) when this autoposts.  The group I’ll be playing with a group founded by Maja Radovanlija, Kermes.

Kermes is a Bloomington (Indiana) based Balkan Band playing music from Serbia, Macedonia, Turkey and other Balkan countries.

Our facebook fanpage bio:

Band was found in September/2010 , with idea of presenting variety of traditional Balkan music (songs and dances). Musicians (instrumentalists) in the band are all classically trained, curious enough to sail away from classical music into the music of Turkey,Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Albania, Romania etc. Three singers (Filiz, Katarina and Gergana) are all bringing very unique style of singing , characteristic for certain Balkan region.

Here’s a video of us playing a Serbian Kolo (dance) called Charlama Kolo:

Continue reading “Performance: Balkan Music @ Cafe Django”

Sunday Spotlight on the Non-Western Cello: Markos Sifnios, Marika Papagika and the Greek Cello

Marika Papagika

I wish I had more information about Markos Sifnios, but as there is only been a recent resurgence of interest in his collaborator Marika Papagika and I’m not in a position to be doing extensive research into her career in the US during the earlier part of the 20th century (yet).

I had first come across Sifnios’ work when I found this wonderful youtube video (see below) of a tune called Smyrneiko Minore (Smyrnaean Air) which, given the date (1919) here (if it is correct) would coincide with Papagika’s first recording in the states with Victor Records.

There is a brief snippet about Sifnios’ collaboration with Papagika at the Wikipedia entry which I can’t really verify or attest to the truth of though interesting in its own right:

Cellist Markos Sifneos [sic] collaborated with Marika Papagika on at least 24 separate occasions. Aside from Kostas, he is her most frequent collaborator, and was one of the few people to play cello on Greek recordings before World War II. There are no records of him recording with anyone except the Papagikas as Cello was not an acceptable instrument for Greek music at the time.

So I came across this video and though I had already known about Marika Papagika I knew nothing about the fact she had a cellist in her Greek band.  So that was something of a revelation.  I doubt cellos were typically a part of traditional or folk Greek ensembles as the above quote seems to indicate, and more than likely, as is the case with Klezmer and other folk music ensembles (and “pick-up” bands in general) Sifnios and his cello just happened to be at her disposal.   But what this also says is that Sifnios could be considered one of the first “Alternative Cellists” in the US (if not the world).

Continue reading “Sunday Spotlight on the Non-Western Cello: Markos Sifnios, Marika Papagika and the Greek Cello”

Sunday Spotlight on the Non-Western Cello: “What If the Cello had Originated in Azerbaijan?”

Chaganeh player in Azerbaijan
Chaganeh player in Azerbaijan

For the Silk Road Ensemble musicians, hearing the ethereal voice of Azerbaijani mugham singer Alim Qasimov put their years of conservatory training into serious question.  As they delved into the mugham, they each wondered, “If this is how music should be played what have I been doing all these years?”

The quote above is from the liner notes to Kor Arab (otherwise known as Kor Ərəbin Mahnısı) which is track ten on the Silk Road Project CD, Silk Road Journeys: Beyond the Horizon.  The music was written by Fikret Amirov and the lyrics by Hüsayn Cavid.

Since I spent some time thinking about the origins of bowed string playing a couple of days ago I knew that I really wanted to say something about this instrument which I had just discovered while writing the post about origins.

The chaganeh is one of the few examples of world bowed strings that really closely matches the physical set-up of a cello and I was just thrilled to see a picture of it at the Wikipedia entry for kamancheh as I was writing the post mentioned above.  The kamancheh itself is an upright bowed spike fiddle as is the chaganeh, but as you can see from the photo above, the spike of the chaganeh is long enough, and the body of the instrument is big enough, that a musician can sit in a chair and play it upright and held between the legs.

As noted in the Wikipedia entry, the instrument is said to come from Azerbaijan, but with the little time I’ve had to look it up, I have come across other references stating the chaganeh originated in Iran.  Until I know more about the instrument I’ll simply say it’s of Central Asian origins.

The only video clip I’ve been able to find is this:

As you can hear, the range and timbre are very similar to that of the kamancheh and other spike fiddles of Central Asia and as you can see in the photo from which the above photo was extracted, it seems to be used as part of the standard art ensemble (Mugham) of Azerbaijan.  Continue reading “Sunday Spotlight on the Non-Western Cello: “What If the Cello had Originated in Azerbaijan?””

Thursday Rehearsal Reflections: Ahel El Nagam

Ahel El Nagam
Ahel El Nagam performing at Shiraz Mediterranean Grill in Louisville 24 July 2009

Tonight I’ll be rehearsing with one of my other bands, Ahel El Nagam (yes, the website is very much in need of updating–I’ll get to that when I have a chance-hah!).  We bill ourselves as Louisville’s Classical Arabic Band as most of our repertoire consists of, well, Classical Egyptian tunes as well as a number of folk and traditional tunes from Turkey, Armenia, Iraq, Andalusia, Israel and other countries and regions from the Middle East.  Ahel El Nagam means, roughly, “People of the Tune.”

The group formed sometime in the middle of 2007 and I believe my first performance with them was sometime during the Spring of 2008.  At it’s formation the group was four members strong with an instrumentation that ranged from oud, tabla (Egyptian tabla), flute/bellydance, electric sitar/mandolin.  The first couple of shows I played with them (with cello) we had a five member group.

Sadly, we’ve slowly lost “full time” members as folks move on, or move out of the area, or whatever.  The majority of the shows we’ve played the past couple of years have been pretty much what you see in the photo above, me on tabla (or cello) and Denise on oud (or tabla/riqq).  We’d both been far too busy the past few months to rehearse much less play a show, though with some upcoming gigs in the works we’re getting together for the first time since last fall (I believe). Continue reading “Thursday Rehearsal Reflections: Ahel El Nagam”