Eclectic Arabian Melody

For most members of the audience who went to Kemper Auditorium last Tuesday, watching the Orchestra of Tetouan perform Andalusian classical music was a unique, first-time experience. Six of the thirty members of the Orchestra of Tetouan came to Phillips Academy and performed 30 minutes of their native Andalusian classical music. Andalusian classical music is a genre that combines elements of its North African and Middle Eastern roots with European, mostly Spanish, influences. The ensemble performed one excerpt from a nuba, one of 24 suites dedicated to an hour of each day. A single nuba usually lasts five to six hours, but the Orchestra of Tetouan played a short, 30 minute excerpt for the audience’s sake. While the piece was mostly in the familiar C-Major, the players added musical twists and harmonies different from western music. The ensemble included a multi-cultural, diverse selection of instruments, ranging from the violin, and the viola to the oud (lute), taarija (tambourine), darbouka (goblet drums), and the 100 stringed instrument, qanun (lap harp). The instrumentalists also served as vocalists for the piece. The most striking aspect of the playing was, ironically, how they played their western instruments. Instead of placing the instruments underneath their chins, they placed them on their lap, like a mini-cello resting on a knee. Rachel Zappala ’10 said, “I honestly do not know much about music…but the performance was really cool. I liked how there were just so many instruments they played with, and they played the violin on their knees!” Different from the relatively stable, parallel and organized qualities of western music, Andalusian classical music is kinetic, constantly moving from one note to another. The individual pitches, especially when singing, wavers with heavy vibrato. The music sounded similar to folk or dance music. Teddy Smyth ’11 said, “[The performance was] a good exposure to different cultures…it had a nice rhythm, different from other music I’ve heard before. It was also nice hearing people speak Arabic, because I haven’t heard it spoken much. I could sort of recognize a few sounds we learned in [Arabic-100].”