Syrians play global music

By Carl Nadig

The exotic sounds of the Middle East were heard from the Music Building Tuesday.

The School of Music and College of Visual and Performing Arts presented a concert showcasing music genres of the Middle East in the Music Building’s Recital Hall. Omar al Musfi, director of the Middle Eastern Ensemble, orchestrated a musical group of professionals and students.

Instead of directing the ensemble with a conductor’s baton, al Musfi kept the band in rhythm as he played a tambourine-like instrument called a riq.

“It’s … part of the world music curriculum at NIU,” al Musfi said. “We have different ensembles…. [F]or Syrian folklore music, we played a song which dates back to when the Arabs where in Spain in the 11th century. It’s a very old piece. We played two Turkish pieces, and we played one Egyptian composition. So, usually every semester we try to get a little bit from different regions in the Middle East. Some things from Iran, sometimes Egyptian [and] North African music.”

Other instruments used included violin, bass, clarinet and a wooden flute-shaped instrument called a nay.

“Coming from an American viewpoint, you don’t really see Middle Eastern music at all,” said Marty Barrett, sophomore business administration major.

During the middle of the show, music professor Fareed Haque stepped out of the crowd and performed a duo with guest director Essam Rafea. While Haque played a classical guitar, Rafea played a compatible stringed, sitar-shaped instrument called the oud.

“We played before, back home in Syria,” said nay player Naeif Rafeh. “We know each other from the same school…. We don’t know [the students] before [tonight]…. I think it sounds very good, and we hope to make more concerts in the future.”