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Sam Shalabi in Collateral

Wednesday, October 1st suddenlyLISTEN Music breaks new cultural ground in a The first concert of the 2014/15 Main Series with legendary Montreal/Cairo guitarist and oud player Sam Shalabi. The concert is at Saint Matthews United Church, 1479 Barrington Street, in Halifax at 8pm. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students and are available at the door. Joining Sam will be Halifax pianist Tim Crofts and suddenlyLISTEN Artistic Director, cellist Norman Adams.

The journey to approaching Sam Shalabi to play in Halifax is a bit of a stream of consciousness…. It all started with Magda Mayas, last season’s stellar guest from Berlin. She told us about the Compass Festival she was producing with musicians from Beirut, Lebanon. I know improvisation crosses all cultures, but when programming, I always seem to get fixated on the Europeans: they may be the parents of western improvised music, but there are improvisers everywhere! So I thought, why stop in Europe? I did some research, listening to Magda's friends, and some other people, from around the world.

Then I talked to Tim Crofts, who I knew would have interesting thoughts on programming non-western, (or not quite western) artists. We brainstormed more  and came up with Sam Shalabi, born in Montreal, but currently living in Egypt. Sam is the father of the legendary Montreal band The Shalabi Effect, and Land of Kush, which has recordings on über-hip Constellation records. He plays in many other bands in both Montreal and Cairo and has made dozens of  recordings, both large and small.

Being a thoroughly (and often ashamedly) WASP person,  I am interested in the idea of Sam's roots: Egyptian (and Libyan, as he was born there), Canadian (he immigrated with his family to Prince Edward Island!), Quebecois, punk rock, jazz, Egyptian (he moved to Cairo in 2011, into the centre of the Arab Spring), and of course improvised. I'm also interested in experiencing Sam's political nature. He's always been outspoken in his feelings about the post 9-11 world, and how Arabs are perceived by others.

Indeed a common thread that runs through all improvised music is political thought. It has often been the source, or inspiration, or reflection for radical or revolutionary ideas. Certainly, Egypt is going through a period of profound change, and Sam is immersed in that volatility of life in Egypt. The Arab influence can be heard clearly, offering a specific musical dialect, different from any other suddenlyLISTEN has presented. And his work in improvisation has grown out of punk music, and I know this crazy blend of interests and influences are going to be riveting listening!

In our concert Collateral with pianist Tim Crofts and me, we will explore and learn about how these Arabic sonorities can infuse our free music environment and hopefully create the beginnings of a new intercultural expression, or at least make some great music together!

I can’t wait to hear what we make together. Sounds from new places, and revolutionary thoughts? Hopefully.

Sep 24, 2014 at 10:21

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