It might seem a bit late to write about Al-Bustan’s last concert (it took place on December 13th, after all), but it has been on my mind because I heard about it all holiday season from my parents. You see, my parents have very little experience with Al-Bustan concerts, Naomi Shihab Nye, the Takht Ensemble, the Philadelphia Arab Music Ensemble, or the Moffet Drummers; thus, when they came to our last concert they were pretty blown away. And then when holiday season comes around and relatives are sharing news, the amazing concert that just happened gets talked about a lot, which is why am I writing this blog post now, and not a month ago.
Of course, the concert itself really was quite amazing. The Takht Ensemble was, per usual, spectacular. I have seen them perform so many times at this point, and even now they still manage to make every song unique to the moment. They really are an exceptional group of musicians, and we are lucky to get to see such world-class talent create tarab in Philadelphia.
Additionally, the Philadelphia Arab Music Ensemble and the Moffet Drummers lit up the room, and, from a personal perspective, warmed my heart. As the on-site administrator for both groups, I have had the privilege to watch both groups grow exponentially over the course of a semester. After all of the work that each group put in these past few months, it means a lot to see them do such a great job.
As amazing as the concert as a whole was, the real scene-stealer was Naomi Shihab Nye. I do like her poetry a great deal; it is socially conscious while still remaining beautiful and transcendent, and she has this optimism about humans that induces hope. And all of that which is good in her written work shines even more brightly when she reads it. To illustrate her charisma, there was a moment during her final poem, “Gate A-4,” when the whole room seemed to lower into another level of quiet, because they were so focused that they forgot to breathe (my theory, not empirically justified). If you’re curious about her work, check out Gate A-4 or A Valentine for Ernest Mann, along with her extensive published works.
Now I’m just looking forward to our next performance!