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What's so great about live music?

Over the years, Cassandra has insisted on dancing to live music whenever possible, both as a soloist and for concert performances with Jawaahir Dance Company.  Live music exposes the dancers and audience to the traditional sounds, emotions, and repertory of this cultural dance.

Live music draws the audience in to the experience in a way recorded music cannot. Audiences feel the music, clapping along with the rhythms and, for our Arab-American attendees, even singing along with the chorus of the songs. It’s even possible to experience tarab, the transportative energy that flows between artists and audience. Performances are more spontaneous and fun with live musicians.

For a Westerner who isn’t familiar with the style, Middle Eastern music can sound dissonant and unusual. The use of microtones (notes played that exist between the notes of our familiar scales), as well as the complementary rhythms played simultaneously on different percussive instruments, can be strange to hear. Plus, Western instruments like the accordion and the violin take on an entirely different color when played in the Arabic style. Live musicians give the audience a chance to see and understand the Arabic instruments as they’re being played.

The dancer’s role is literally to embody the music—to illustrate the many overlapping rhythms through musical movements of various body parts. The dancer must also embody the emotions being expressed in the music. Audiences are able to grasp this crucial relationship between dancer and musician if both parties are present, performing together.

This year: Arabian Bouquet

This year’s concert features music of the Algerian singer Warda al-Jazeera, who shares as legendary a status as Lebanon’s Fayrouz and Egypt’s Umm Kalthoum. She was dubbed “The Algerian Rose” and is known to her fans simply by her first name. Warda became famous across the Middle East for her exquisite vocal renderings of love songs. At the height of her fame she starred in a number of films and in her lifetime recorded 300 songs. Her voice has been described as sultry, sweet, and powerful.

Cassandra says, “Excellent music was composed for her — a long and large repertory. There are quite a lot of dance possibilities within her playlist.” Cassandra has been wholly inspired and immersed in the music and is excited to share Warda’s depth and influence with local audiences.

The Georges Lammam Ensemble, et al
This year, Cassandra and Jawaahir will be collaborating with Georges Lammam (Music Director, violin, vocals) and Naser Musa (oud, vocals). Joining this amazing core are artists Ali Amer (qanun – a zither-like instrument), Nidal Ibourk (vocals), Miles Jay (bass), Karim Nagi (riq – Arabic tambourine), Susu Pampanin (Egyptian tabla, percussion), local violinists Laura Harada and Salah Fattah, and the multi-talented Tim O'Keefe (percussion).

Vocalist Nidal Ibourk was born and raised in Morocco and is currently living in the U.S. She has performed in many Arabic and international venues with well-known Arab-American artists and music ensembles such as Simon Shaheen, the Middle Eastern Music Ensemble at the University of Chicago, Chicago Arabesque Festival, and the Arab World Festival. Her North African background and classical Arabic music training make her the perfect Warda interpreter!

Please help Bring Cassandra the Rhythm again

Bringing in a 10-piece orchestra is very expensive. Arts funding is shrinking, and several of our past funding sources are no longer available to us; some have stopped funding the arts altogether. Our goal is to help to raise $18,000 to cover the core portion of the band’s travel, housing expenses, and performance fees, none of which are ever covered by ticket sales or workshop fees.

A live performance by artists of this caliber is a rare opportunity in the U.S. and is even becoming uncommon in the Middle East. Following Jawaahir’s most recent annual concert season, renowned musician and dancer Karim Nagi, a frequent guest artist of Jawaahir, wrote, in our honor, “Something like this does not exist elsewhere in the USA nor Arab world.”

The amount you give makes a difference to Cassandra, and to the hundreds of people who will attend the November performances and so be touched by her artistic gift. It brings Cassandra's breathtaking artistry to audiences once again.


Something like this does not exist anywhere else in the USA nor Arab World. Thank you, Cassandra…

—Karim Nagy     
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