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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Recap: The Fusion Factor in Independent Arab Music with Diya Azzony

Last Tuesday, the Vermont Council on World Affairs welcomed #DiyaAzzony to Main Street Landing’s Black Box Theatre for a VCWA Speaker Series: The Fusion Factor in Independent Arab Music.

The evening began with a jazzy song called Waiting, that Diya wrote while waiting for his wife to get ready to go out one evening in Chicago. Diya, on electric guitar, was accompanied by his band mate Abdullah, on saxophone.

Diya and Abdullah play "Waiting"

After some questions from the audience, Diya and Abdullah were joined by Grup Anwar, a local band, headed by Anwar Diab Agha, who moved to Vermont from Syria in 2008. While Diya describes his music as fusion, Grup Anwar’s music falls into the more traditional Middle Eastern genre-- when the two groups combined, the audience was able to truly see the fusion of modern and traditional, and were impressed by the results. “The music was great. The integration of the different kinds of music was done really well. I could tell the jazz and Arabic music was fused and could pick out the two styles”, said an attendee, following the show.

Some topics discussed included the concept of “open tuning” used in Arab music, and the future of the arts in Saudi Arabia. It was an important learning opportunity for the Vermont community. “I thought what was really cool was how the audience, the visiting band, and the local band were able to not only translate linguistically for one another, but also to turn that linguistic translation into a reflection of the music they were playing”*, commented an audience member on not only the musical, but cultural fusion experienced that night.

Diya and Abdullah were excited to have been able to share their culture with Vermont, and during the reception, catered by the Skinny Pancake, Abdullah expressed his thoughts on the Fusion Factor, saying, “It’s like musical cultures, when we make a fusion between Arabic and jazz, it helps you learn more about the other culture – how they speak and what they do”. This night certainly helped Vermonters learn more about Saudi Arabian culture, and was a new and enlightening experience for many.

When asked what the Fusion Factor means to him, Diya remarked “It’s the musical sound I’ve been looking for and apparently I’ve found it in a lot of musical experiences. It keeps changing with the instruments, feelings, and people I encounter. It’s an ongoing feeling that keeps changing. It’s universal. It’s all about the harmony”. We certainly felt that harmony last week, and wish Diya well as he continues his musical journey.

Thanks to the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture and the Middle East Institute for making this event possible. With over 100 happy Vermonters in attendance, we must say, it was a great success!

If you made it to the event (or missed it) and want to see more of what the VCWA is up to, check out our next event this Thursday, which involves a discussion with experts on the conflict in Syria.

*Special thanks to Samantha Lewandowski for collecting quotes from the evening

This post was written by Chelsea Beaulieu, VCWA Program Assistant

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