Majed Abu Ajamia, qanun
Kim Fleuchaus, nay/flute
Lucia Thomas, oud/violin
Sam Hyson, violin/accordion
Don Skoog, percussion
The Chicago Arabic Music Ensemble provides musical performances and presentations for colleges, libraries, schools, and cultural organizations.
Arabic music is thought to be exotic, foreign to the ear, yet it is one of the roots of the Western tradition, distinct yet inseparable from the music of Europe and the New World. CAME explores the songs, the instruments, the styles, and most importantly, the people who make the beautiful sounds of the Arabic world to reveal the shared musical history of East and West.
CAME’s talented artists demonstrate the nay—a haunting-toned cane flute, the violin, the accordion, the oud—a forerunner of the guitar, the qanun—a finger-plucked zither, as well as the riqq (tambourine), tar (frame drum), and tabla (goblet drum) that became the percussion instruments of the European orchestra.
Their audience-tailored presentations explore styles from different Arabic regions, then examine the poetry of the lyrics, the scale system and rhythmic modes so central to the music. But most importantly they bring to life the many peoples of the Arabic world, to tell their stories and hear their voices reflected in our own. In this time of mistrust CAME builds bridges of understanding through music, a language common to us all.
Visit us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/ChicagoArabicMusicEnsemble
Majed Abu Ajamia is a Palestinian qanun and oud player who started his studies in Jerusalem with William Hagopian. Since arriving in Chicago in 1991, he has performed Middle Eastern music in public and educational settings, including the Chicago Cultural Center for a reception hosted by Mayor Daley in honor of Arab Heritage Month, at events at the Egyptian Consulate, and at The Oriental Institute. He has also performed with the University of Chicago’s Middle Eastern Music Ensemble. In 2003, as part of the “After School Matters” program, he taught a Middle Eastern Rhythms class at Sullivan High School. In 1995, he composed the music and performed in a play at North Park University called “The Longing,” which captured Palestinian oral histories and stories from 1948 to the present. In 2007 Majed participated in the “Music for the Screen” program at Columbia College, introducing students to Arabic maqqam. Majed teaches Islamic Calligraphy at the American Islamic College.
Kim Fleuchaus has been playing Middle Eastern music for over fifteen years, including performances at the Kennedy Center, the White House, the U.N. Building, NYC’s Symphony Space, Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, and before HRH Queen Rania of Jordan. She has played on WBEZ on Worldview with Jerome McDonnel, and was featured on the documentary film “A Message from the East” and the Jonathan Park radio drama series. She has toured the US and Canada with Muslim playwright Rohina Malik in the one-woman show, “Unveiled.” She holds a music performance degree from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in Ethnomusicology from Bethel University. A dedicated educator, she is an award winning pedagogue and sought after clinician in the Chicago area, frequently giving lectures on Arabic music at colleges and flute clubs while maintaining an active classical freelance career. She is also a member of the Salaam-Shalom Music Project, an interfaith ensemble exploring the intersecting worlds of the Klezmer and Arabic music traditions.
Mrs. Lucia Thomas was born in Oakland, California, and at the age of 6 began learning the violin. She completed her B.A. in violin performance at the University of Denver in 2012, but her artistic search did not end in Western classical music. Driven by a strong commitment to human connections, Mrs. Thomas bridges cultural divides with folk music, building on its age-old foundation of honoring human communities, challenging injustice, and celebrating everyday beauty. She is founder and director of the Chicago Folklore Ensemble, which aims to celebrate immigrant communities by gathering and performing oral histories and traditional music from master immigrant musicians. She has received three DCASE grants, a Puffin Foundation grant, and an Evanston Arts Council grant for several Chicago Folklore Ensemble projects: “The World in Chicago,” music and oral histories from Argentina, Thailand, Ghana, Jordan, and Serbia; “Where Rivers Meet,” music and oral histories from Egypt, Iraq, and Palestine; “Follow the Butterfly,” a children’s show of folktales and folksongs with environmental themes, and “Our Gitanjali,” poetry and compositions of Bengali songwriter Rabindranath Tagore.
Sam Hyson is a Chicago-based musician with a passion for international music. He performs on violin, accordion, and other instruments, and has studied numerous international music styles with Chicago immigrant musicians from Serbia, Argentina, Ghana, Thailand, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Iraq, and India. He has collaborated to produce numerous concerts, two albums of music, and a book of immigrant stories. He has travelled and performed on oud in theatrical performances with nationally acclaimed playwright Rohina Malik. He plays Mexican and Latin music with Cielito Lindo Family Folk Band and with the duo Sam & Juan, Bengali folk music with Ochin Pakhi, Persian music with Shalizar Ensemble, Klezmer and Arabic music with the Salaam-Shalom Music Project, and a variety of international music with two groups he cofounded: Chicago Folklore Ensemble and Compass Rose Duo.
Don Skoog has given presentations and masterclasses at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, the Illinois PAS Day of Percussion, Millikin University, Northwestern University, University of Wisconsin, Kansas State University, the Nashville Jazz Workshop, College of DuPage, Colorado State University, Elmhurst College, Valparaiso University, the Old Town School of Folk Music, Concordia University, and Vandercook College. He was on faculty at the Sherwood Conservatory of Music, is a presenter for The International Music Foundation, was director of the Gallery 37 Latin Big Band, and is author of Batá Drumming, The Instruments, the Rhythms, and the People Who Play Them. He performs with Iranian and Arabic dancers in the Chicago area, and has worked with Simon Shaheen, Michel Merhej, Karim Nagy, and Tariq Rantisi at the Arabic Music Retreat.
The University of Chicago’s Arabic Language magazine, Majala, has published an article I wrote on Arabic music. While the article is in Arabic I do have an English language version that I will post up here for those of you who want to read it.
Majala Chicago Arabic language Version
CAME at The University of Wisconsin, Madison 9/21.