World-class Oud virtuoso and composer Issam Rafea to appear at Carleton

May 24, 2017

Carleton College is pleased to present world-class Oud virtuoso and composer Issam Rafea in performance on Tuesday, May 30 at 7 p.m. in the Concert Hall. The acclaimed Syrian artist will appear along with the Carleton Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, showcasing traditional and modern music from the Arab world. This event is free and open to the public.

One of Syria's elite musicians, Rafea is a refugee now establishing himself as a professional musician and educator in the United States. He has a passion for infusing traditional Arab and Middle Eastern music with new compositional ideals and instrumentation. Winner of the 2010 Best Composer Award in the Dubai International Film Festival (Muhr Arab) for the film “September Rain,” Rafea was chair of the Arabic Music Department at the High Institute of Music in Damascus and the principal conductor of the Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music. In Syria, he was an active composer and arranger for TV and theatre.

In March 2013, Rafea was invited to the U.S. to direct the Middle Eastern Music Ensemble and give a series of presentations and performances at Northern Illinois University School of Music. During his stay in Illinois, he performed with guitar virtuoso Fareed Haque in multiple cross-cultural collaborations. Rafea led a groundbreaking collaboration with Damen Albarn of the British rock bands Blur and Gorillaz: specifically, Rafea and the Syrian National Orchestra for Arab Music contributed to the Gorillaz song "White Flag" on its 2010 album, “Plastic Beach.”

“All in all, I believe music is a universal language,” Rafea says. “Whether you are from Africa or the Middle East or America or Europe, you have a connection to music, you can feel the beat. Every type of music has its own unique sound. But there is interaction between audience and musicians, so even if you’ve never heard a certain kind of music, every person responds in his or her own way, the images it creates in your mind, the feelings it inspires. And the musicians like to hear the audience vocalize its responses.”

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This event is sponsored by the Carleton College Department of Music. For more information, including disability accommodations, call (507) 222-4475. The Concert Hall is located on First Street, between Nevada and Winona Streets, in Northfield.