A concert by the Salaam Ensemble tonight in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's McCoy Studio Theater offers a rare opportunity to hear authentic Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Greek and North African music performed by master musicians.
"These are some of the best musicians in the world you will ever hear," enthuses Salaam's director John Zeretzke.
The ensemble includes Brahim Fribgane from Morocco, Saman Mahmoudi and Houman Pourmehdi from Iran, Souhail Kaspar from Lebanon, and American-born Zeretzke, who is acclaimed for his scores for leading dance companies.
From the Middle East to the MACC comes the music of the Salaam Ensemble.
A master percussionist and multi-instrumentalist, Houman Pourmehdi has been heard on the movie soundtracks of "Syriana," "Troy," "The Hulk" and "Young Black Stallion." Studying drumming under the guidance of Grand Master Amir Nasser Eftetah in Iran, his interest in Sufism led him to work with renowned musicians of the Ghaderi Sufi order.
Born and raised in Morocco, Brahim Fribgane grew up surrounded by North African, Gnawa, Berber, Arabic and Andulusian music. He became a significant contributor to the development of a new style of Moroccan pop music in the early 1980s.
Master percussionist Souhail Kaspar's movie credentials include soundtracks for "The Prince of Egypt," "Sinbad," and "The Mummy." Known for his brilliant technique and exciting performances he has performed with leading artists including Sting and jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell, and with Arabic stars such as Cheb Mami, Sabah, Feiruz and George Wassouf.
The composer of orchestral, ballet and dance scores for such companies as the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, Diavolo, The Royal Danish Ballet and Ballet de Monterey of Mexico, Zeretzke is known for his Tribal Symphonic works. Along with the Salaam Ensemble, he also currently leads The Goin' South Band playing Southern Americana, and the world-music ensemble Ancient Grooves.
Zeretzke was encouraged to gather these virtuoso musicians together with the initial aim of increasing multicultural awareness.
"It was right after the war in Iraq started and there was nothing going out to the schools that represented any of the countries in the Middle East," Zeretzke explains. "I had been working with the Middle Eastern communities in Los Angeles for years and had worked with master musicians living there.
"We all believed in exposing the world in a time when people had tunnel vision about Middle Eastern music. We go into schools where kids know nothing of the culture or music; they've only seen pictures of war. We're not political, we're just spreading music."
The Salaam Ensemble musicians celebrate the rich, diverse cultural tapestry of North Africa and the Middle East.
"My mission was to create a show of diversity, not just two hours of Arabic music, or two hours of Persian music, but to show people the amazing diversity in the area we call the Near and Middle East," Zeretzke continues. "From region to region, the styles change just like in America. It's a 4,000 mile range and we call it all the same."
Maui's Hawaiian nose flute virtuoso Anthony Natividad will join the Salaam musicians on stage tonight. Some time back, Zeretzke had been given one of Natividad's flutes and was curious to meet and play with him.
"I wanted to have him as a special guest," he notes. "I just love the sound and knew it would fit with what we do. He's very excited."
n The Salaam Ensemble performs at 7:30 tonight in the MACC's McCoy Studio Theater. Tickets are $27 plus applicable fees, and half-price for kids and teens 18 and younger.
Concert promoter Tom Moffatt has launched a new band talent contest, "Band Champ," aimed at Hawaii's aspiring young musicians. The competition is open to 13-to- 18-year-olds who belong to a band with a minimum of two and maximum of six members, playing original songs or covers from any genre of music.
"We're looking for the top high school band in the state," says Moffatt. "There hasn't been anything like this state-wide in a long time."
A panel of music industry professionals will select bands from Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island to compete in preliminary competitions on their respective islands in February and March next year. The winning bands from each island will then compete during the Band Champ finale later in March at Oahu's Pipeline Caf.
The preliminary rounds and competition finale will be taped by KHON-TV (FOX, Channel 2) and later aired in a one-hour show in March. Viewers will be able to vote online or via text for their favorite band. The winning band will be announced the following day on KHON-TV's evening newscast.
Winners will receive a $5,000 grand prize, a recording contract for a single produced by Moffatt, as well as Mobi PCS phones with a year's service. And all four finalists from each island will receive custom Washburn electric guitars.
During his extensive career, veteran promoter Moffatt has brought some of the biggest names in music to the islands including Michael Jackson, the Rolling Stones, Bob Marley, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles and Elvis Presley.
"The winning band will get to open for one of my major shows in the upcoming year," says Moffatt. "Years ago, I did a band contest on Oahu called 'Blast Off' at the Waikiki Shell, and I was involved in Brown Bags and cut some of the albums. It's been a while and there's so much more talent now. They can't play in bars, so this gives young bands a chance to get out there."
The Band Champ competition is free to enter. Applications and contest details can be picked up at any participating Burger King restaurant in the state or any Mobi PCS retail location. For contest details, check out www.bandchamp.com.
Between now and Jan. 17, 2009, participants should submit an application with a video audition on DVD (preferred) or an audio clip in any format on CD with a group photo to: A Tom Moffatt Production, 1232 Waimanu St., Honolulu 96814.
"It can be Hawaiian music, Jawaiian, rock 'n' roll, Jamaican, anything and original or covers," Moffatt adds. "I'm very excited about it."
As part of the MACC's Tune-In Series, the Jupiter Quartet will perform on Nov. 20 in the McCoy Studio Theater.
Praised by Chamber Music of America as the "best rising string quartet," the Jupiter Quartet features violinists Nelson Lee and Megan Freivogel, violist Liz Freivogel and cellist Daniel McDonough. Reviewing one of their concerts, the New York Sun praised the ensemble as "one of the strongest young string quartets in the country."
The Maui program includes the "Quartet in F Major, Op. 77, No. 2" by Haydn; "Quartet No. 5, Sz. 102" by Bartok; and "Quartet in A minor, Op. 132" by Beethoven.
Tickets are $27 plus applicable fees, and half-price for kids and teens 18 and younger.
Rocking San Diego since 1989, the Grateful Dead tribute band the Electric Waste Band heads to Charley's on Friday night. Offering their own improvisational interpretations of over 150 Grateful Dead tunes, they cover all the classics from "Casey Jones" and "Turn On Your Love Light," to "Bertha."
Over the years they've opened for such Dead-associated groups as the David Nelson Band, Vince Welnick & The Missing Man Formation and Merle Saunders.
"The songs don't have to be played just like the Dead did for people to enjoy them," the Electric Waste Band's keyboard player, Paul Bell, said in an interview. "As a band we distance ourselves from the way it should be done. So we don't play it like the Dead would play it. We all do hammer on guitar solos, rock it out."
As a benefit for Maui Police Department senior criminalist Julie Wood who has cancer, "The Ka'iulani Project," an evening of music, history and theater celebrating the life of Hawaiian Princess Victoria Ka'iulani Cleghorn, will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Lahaina United Methodist Church.
Entertainers include Kathy Collins, Jennifer Fahrni, Wilmont K. Kahaiali'i, Brado, Hamish Burgess and the Tava Nui Tahitian Drummers.
Proceeds will go towards raising funds for Wood to travel to Sweden for advanced treatment that isn't covered by her insurance.
Jamallad & The Global Citizens will ignite Mulligans on the Blue with infectious world beat music on Saturday. Singing in French, English and about seven African languages, Jamallad plays an inspired mix of funk, reggae, Afro-pop, soukous and folk-rock.
His uplifting CD "Global Citizen" includes the intoxicating soukous dance rhythms of "In The Now," the Afro-reggae groove of "Abidjan La Belle," the Ziggy Marley-flavored "Happiness" and the funky, rocking title track.
A younger brother of reggae star Alpha Blondy, Jamallad and his band will perform songs from "Global Citizen" along with some of his brother's hits. Show at 10 p.m. $10 cover.