Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD)
4454 Woodward Ave
Saturday, July 9th at 8PM
Omar Souleyman with special guests Ara Topouzian
Admission: $9.00 all ages
Omar Souleyman is a Syrian pop musician. Since 1994, he and his musicians – Rizan Said keyboard and Ali Shaker Ali – bozouk - have emerged as a staple of folk-pop throughout Syria, but until now they have remained little known outside of the country. To date, he has issued more than five hundred studio and live-recorded cassette albums which are easily spotted in the shops of any Syrian city.
From rural Northeastern Syria, Omar began his musical career in 1994 with a small group of local collaborators that remain with him today. The myriad musical traditions of the region are evident in their music. Here, classical Arabic mawal-style vocalization gives way to high-octane Syrian Dabke (the regional folkloric dance and party music), Iraqi Choubi and a host of Arabic, Kurdish and Turkish styles, among others.
This amalgamation is truly the sound of Syria. Together, they commonly perform the Ataba, a traditional form of folk poetry used in Dabke. Acting as a conduit, Souleyman struts into the audience with urgency, vocalizing the prose in song before returning for the next verse. Souleyman’s first hit in Syria was "Jani" (1996) which gained cassette-kiosk infamy and brought him recognition throughout the country. Over the years, his popularity has risen steadily and the group tirelessly performs concerts throughout Syria and has accepted invitations to perform abroad in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Lebanon.
Ara Topouzian is an Armenian-American musician whose proficiency at the KANUN (Middle Eastern harp) has made him a nationally-recognized artist. He has performed in concert, at music festivals and many celebrated venues across the United States, with the top musicians in Middle Eastern music.
Topouzian's traditional musical style keeps to his Armenian heritage but has expanded to include music from around the Middle East, as well as jazz, fusion, new age and blues.
The recipient of numerous awards, Ara Topouzian's music has been heard and sold around the globe. Showing an interest in music in his early youth, Ara played music throughout the public school music program and in college, he began studying Armenian and Middle Eastern classical and folk music. Performing with a local Armenian band, Ara eventually branched out and began performing as a solo and ensemble musician throughout the Midwest and East Coast.
In 1991, he formed American Recording Productions (ARP) with the intent to record and preserve this type of world music. To date, his award winning record label has produced over thirty recordings of Armenian and Middle Eastern music. ARP products are distributed internationally in major retail outlets and can be heard on several world music and NPR radio stations. He has performed at several Armenian weddings and social events, world music concerts, nightclubs, and folk festivals throughout the country. Ara’s music has been featured in several PBS documentaries that have been aired nationwide. Along with his Detroit-based world music ensemble, Eastern Winds, Ara has performed with several popular Armenian, Greek, and Middle Eastern performers and ensembles (including Eastern Winds) throughout the country.
Some notable musicians he has performed include: George Mgrdichian, Onnik Dinkjian, Mal Barsamian, John Berberian, Joe Zeytoonian, James Stoynoff, and the Chicago Immigrant Orchestra. He also has performed with jazz, fusion, rock, and blues artists/ensembles such as the following notable artists: Wendel Harrison, Sean Blackman, Colton Weatherston, and Immigrant Suns.
Ara performs an array of Armenian and Middle Eastern instruments including: Kanun (laptop harp), Duduk (Armenian oboe), Metal G-clarinet, Dumbek (Middle Eastern hand drum), Def (Middle Eastern tambourine), and a variety of Middle Eastern frame drums.