Music Sowing Seeds of Cross-Cultural Understanding
The arts can encourage positive cultural identity and promote cross-cultural understanding. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, that’s the premise of the Philadelphia-based organization Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, open to people of all backgrounds and presenting and teaching Arab language, art, and music, which can vary among the 22 countries in the Arab world.
Susan Lewis: Hazami Sayed co-founded Al Bustan Seeds of Culture in 2002 as a camp for children of mostly Arab heritage.
By 2009, the mission was expanding; the group added a music director, violinist Hanna Khoury, who grew up in a Palestinian village in Northern Israel. He now performs both western and Arab music, which he says can sometimes be compared to jazz, as musicians ornament a melody with Arabic spices. An example?
HK: A tune that everybody in Philadelphia knows is this. PLAYS. Now what do I mean by improvising and ornamenting it? I could do it. PLAYS or PLAYS. Each one is different. Imagine if those two are playing at the same time.
SL: A concert series with a resident ensemble and guests from Arab and other traditions fosters musical collaboration, like this piece with American guitarist Jason Vieaux.
HK: It becomes a celebration of culture in this city in which you are bringing many different communities together.
SL: Al Bustan Seeds of Culture also runs two community music ensembles and an after-school program, among other activities. Their weekly Arab Music Ensemble class is open to the public and starts Thursday evening, August 27, 2015 at the University of Pennsylvania.