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Syria’s greatest Quaraic Sheik, Hamza Shakkur, and the Al-Kindi ensemble will perform with traditional Arab musical instruments and the Whirling Dervishes of Damascus at 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 20, at the Williams Center for the Arts.

Tickets cost $18. To inquire about availability, call the box office at 610-300-5009.

Muge Galin, professor of religion at Ohio State University, will give a pre-concert lecture at 7 p.m. in Williams Center room 108. Free and open to the public, the talk is part of “Ancient Faiths, Modern Voices,” a series of performances and lectures at Lafayette and community locations.

Al-Kindi Ensemble is comprised of Julien Jâlal Eddine Weiss, qânun (zither) and artistic director; Ziyâd Kâdî Amin, ney (reed flute); Qadri Dalal, ‘ud (lute); and Adel Shams el-Din, riqq (tambourine). Performing as Munshiddin (choir) are Suleyman Al-Khechn and Abdallah Chakour. The Whirling Dervishes (Mawlawi) of Damascus are Hatem al-Jamal, Maher al-Jamal, Hicham al-Khatib, and Ghassan Janid.

Born in Damascus in 1947, Sheikh Hamza is a muqri (Koran reader) and a munshid (hymnodist). He is the disciple of Saïd Farhat and Tawfiq al-Munajjid; his task is to assure the continuity of the repertory proper to the Mawlawiya order. He is the choir master of the Munshiddin of the Great Mosque in Damascus and serves at official religious ceremonies in Syria, where he is immensely popular. Sheikh Hamza’s bass voice, with its richly rounded timbre, has made him one of the foremost perfomers of Arab singing. The Islam he represents is that of mysticism and well-being in the faith.

Replying to Sheikh Hamza’s soaring, powerful invocations to God, the musicians of the Al-Kindi Ensemble alternate subtle flourishes and arabesques with refined preludes, and the dervishes whirl their spellbinding dance on stage. The Al-Kindi Ensemble, founded in 1983 by Julien Jâlal Eddine Weiss, is based in Aleppo, the capital of northern Syria and an important stopover on the famous Silk Road. Al-Kindi is recognized as one of the leading ensembles devoted to classical Arab music. In addition to performances with Sheikh Hamza Shakkur and the Whirling Dervishes of Damascus, the ensemble has toured with Sabri Moudallal, Omar Sarmini, Adib Daiykh, and Husayn Al-Azamî.

Julien Jalâl Eddine Weiss, a Frenchman of Swiss and Alsatian heritage, was born in Paris in 1953 and converted to the Muslim faith in 1986. Accomplished on the qânûn, he studied with masters throughout the Arab world. He has travelled throughout Europe with the renowned vocalists Hussein al-Aczami from Iraq; Sabri Moudallal, Omar Sarmini and Adib Daiykh from Aleppo; Shaykh Hamza Shakur from Damascus; and Lotfi Bushnak from Tunisia. He regularly presents music-room concerts in the traditional style at his home, a 16th century Mameluk palace.

Ziyâd Qâdî Amin, from Damascus, is a student of Abdelsalam Safar and one of the leading exponents of the ney in Syria. He has been a member of the Al-Kindi Ensemble for several years.

Muhammad Qadri Dalal, born in Aleppo in 1946, is a master of the‘ud and renowned in his native country. He performs in the traditional Aleppian style, which emanates from the Turkish school and aims at a smooth, rounded sound. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the traditional repertory.

Adel Shams Eddine, born in Cairo in 1950, has been one of the mainstays of the Al-Kindi Ensemble since it was created. His mastery of complex rhythmic cycles has made him a highly respected performer on the riqq. He lives in France.

“Ancient Faiths, Modern Voices” is a Humanities and the Arts Initiative, funded by a grant from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council with additional support from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. For more information, contact the Williams Center at 610-330-5010.

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