Arabic Music Course Bridges Cultures Through Melodies

A new Arabic music course offered in 2011 is expanding Swarthmore's selection of already diverse music programs that includes Japanese drumming, Indonesian percussion, and African dance accompaniment. This semester, the class has about a dozen students who are learning both singing and percussion. Ozan Erturk '12, who played goblet-shaped drum Doueoumbek, says that despite having played percussion since before college, the class was an unique learning opportunity for him. "Hafez has this really mixed percussion background that he can bring to Arabic music, which I really like," Erturk says. "I picked up some salsa from him and [learned] how to mix salsa with Arabic rhythms." The class primarily is focused on music by acclaimed Lebanese composer Marcel Khalife and culminated in a concert with Khalife himself on March 13th. The Philadelphia concert featured performances by the Swarthmore singers as well as over 100 other performers from various Arabic music programs. "Most groups learned three songs, but the [Swarthmore] students performed 10 compositions and did an excellent job," says Hanna Khoury, an instructor for the course with percussionist Hafez El Ali Kotain. "Even Marcel was like, 'Wow, how did these people learn to do all this?'" (videography by Kat Clark '12)