Andalusian music returns to Acre Arabesque festival

The festival will feature authentic Arabic and Andalusian music, and will give the audience a glimpse of its roots and history, alongside the story of Acre and its residents.

THE FIRQAT El Nour Orchestra.
The Arabesque Acre Festival, the International Festival of Classical and Andalusian Arabic Music, under the artistic direction of Tom Cohen, will take place for the second year in the Crusader fortress in the Old City of Acre and throughout the city, from June 11-15.
The festival will host leading artists from Israel and abroad, including Sarit Hadad, Miri Mesika, the Jerusalem East and West Orchestra, the Firqat El Nour Orchestra, Raymond Abecassis, Mike Karutchi, Violet Salameh, Sanaa Marahati, the Al-Masaia Orchestra of Nazareth and others.
The festival will feature authentic Arabic and Andalusian music, and will give the audience a glimpse of its roots and history, alongside the story of Acre and its residents – Jews and Arabs, secular and religious, new and veteran immigrants – who are all living side by side.
The festival focuses on the common culture and roots.
The Firqat El Nour orchestra, which consists of ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs, will open the first evening of the festival. They will host the diva of Moroccan poetry in Israel, Raymond Abecassis – who is widely admired in Morocco and in Moroccan communities around the world – as well as Mike Karutchi – one of the greatest Moroccan singers in Israel, whose achievements were recognized by the King of Morocco – and the poet, Moshe Locke. They will perform classic folk songs from Morocco.
The Al-Masaia Orchestra of Nazareth – conducted by the virtuoso violinist, Kamil Shajrawi who plays innovative adaptations of classical Arabic music with elements from the pop and rock world – will perform on the second night of the festival. They will open their performance with Shajrawi’s musical composition “Alrabiea,” as well as an orchestration he made of songs by the Lebanese singer, Melhem. There will also be a tribute to the popular Lebanese and Syrian singers, Louis Saruji, Haitham Jishi and Nancy Hawa. 
Commenting on the fact that much of the music in the concert will be from Arab countries such as Lebanon and Syria, with which Israel is in conflict, Shajrawi noted, “Music crosses borders.” He said his orchestra plays “challenging music, very serious and on a very high level... we take modern music and adapt it, interpret it, we play different harmonies.”
The Jerusalem East and West Orchestra conducted by Tom Cohen, will host a women’s poetry performance on the third night of the festival, with Sarit Hadad, Miri Mesika, Violet Salameh (one of the most respected interpreters of Umm Kulthum’s music in the Arab world today) and the beloved Moroccan singer, Sanaa Marahati. The four stars will all sing in Hebrew, classical Arabic, Moroccan Arabic and more.
Cohen, who is of mixed Iraqi, Polish and English descent, composed the music for the successful Israeli series Zagury Imperia, and produced albums for some of the biggest names in Israeli music, including Ninet Tayeb, Omer Adam, Berry Sakharof, Ehud Banai and Dudu Tessa. “My life’s journey is looking for a new musical language, one that can take advantage of all the influences we have, living here,” he said. He studied traditional Western classical music, but found he was “searching for something that would make a quicker connection to the audience, music speaks more to the emotions and less to brain.” He found himself drawn to gypsy and Mediterranean music, and finally to the various styles of Arabic music that are front and center at the Arabesque festival.
In addition to the performances, the festival will include a master class for the children of the municipal conservatory in Acre, with international kamancheh artist Elad Levy, senior violinist Fadel Manna and cellist Mayo Shviro. In addition, a symposium entitled “Music and a Shared Culture” will by Tom Cohen, with the participation of Prof. Taysir Elias, Prof. Joseph Sheetrit and Paul Dahan.
Every evening of the festival, there will be street performances of authentic Berber music from Marrakesh, and on Saturday there will be a “Kabbalat Shabbat,” Shabbat prayers and “Piyyutim” with liturgical poets Lior Elmaliach, Yaniv Madar, Sinai Edri, Mordechai Elharar and Moshe Locke in various synagogues in the city.
The mayor of Acre and chairman of the Arabesque Festival, Shimon Lankri, said: “We are proud to host the festival for the second year in a row, which already has become a tradition for our city. 
Acre is a symbol of coexistence hence deserves the most, to be the place that presents the rich contribution of classical Arab and Andalusian music to Israeli culture. The audience that will arrive at the festival will enjoy the city’s landscapes, the amazing atmosphere and the emotional and soul levels that the participating artists will demonstrate in street performances and other activities.”
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