17th Annual Arab Cultural Festival




AL JUTHOOR ("Roots") is a folkloric dance company founded in January, 2005, in San Francisco, whose mission is to present and preserve Palestinian dance, music, and culture. They perform dabkeh, the indigenous folk dance of the Levant region of the Arab world, which includes Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and portions of Jordan and Iraq. This dance is customarily a part of any social or celebratory event, such as parties and weddings. It is performed as an improvised, communal line dance that young and old take part in, with the leader at the head of the line directing the variations of steps.

Dabkeh groups that present staged versions of this folk dance are common in the Arab world as part of state-sponsored or community folk dance groups. To Al-Juthoor, dabkeh is more than just a celebratory event, it's every movement is a political statement and wake up call to the world’s conscience to open its eyes to the ongoing injustice occurring in Palestine. Al-Juthoor uses dabkeh as an artistic means to symbolize their passion, while reminding the world that they are steadfast, awaiting the return to their homeland.

ALSARAH AND THE NUBATONES are inspired by the Sudanese pentatonic scale and western soul music, and struck by a collective love for Nubian music. They revisit Nubian songs of return, as well as popular songs from northern Sudan and southern Egypt, from the 1970s until today. While linguistically there has been a rapid Arabization of that region, its retention of its musical culture has been steadfast. Alsarah is a Sudanese born singer, songwriter and ethnomusicologist. Born in the capital city of Khartoum, where she spent the first eight years of her life, she relocated to Taez, Yemen with her family to escape the ever stifling regime in her native country. She abruptly moved to the US in 1994, when a brief civil war broke out in Yemen. Alsarah started her musical training at the age of 12. After attending The Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter High School, in Hadley, MA, she spent four years at Wesleyan University studying Music with a concentration in Ethnomusicology. Currently residing in Brooklyn, she performs music from different parts of the Middle East and East Africa. For more information, visit http://www.alsarah.com/.

FAISAL ZEDAN grew up in Syria, enthralled with the derbakki. He had studied that instrument intensively before he had turned 15, and has since mastered the riqq and tar as well. Faisal’s impeccable technique allows him to perform in both classical and folkloric styles. When he moved to California in 1992, Faisal joined UCLA’s Near East Music Ensemble. In the following year, he was a founding member of the group Kam Zaman, with which he performed across the United States. He is also a founding member of Los Angeles’s Youm It Talaata percussion group, and he most recently begun directing Ajyal, all while performing in other ensembles and with many equally talented collaborators. For more information, visit http://faisalzedan.com/.

NASER MUSA is recognized by critics of Middle Eastern music as an oud virtuoso, as well as a talented singer-songwriter. He started playing oud while growing up in Amman, Jordan. After he moved to the United States in 1982, he continued to study music at California Polytechnic University in Pomona. Throughout his career, his objective has been to combine Arabic melodic structures, which are based on Arabic scales, with Western elements in order to present a style of Arabic music that is understood and appreciated by the Western listener. Among his most celebrated recordings are “Khaliji,” a collection of folk songs from the Gulf, and “Christmas and Beyond,” which melds Western Christmas carols and Arabic church hymns. He has also contributed to Hollywood movie soundtracks and recorded with both Shakira and Beyonce. For more information, visit www.nasermusa.net.

OMAR OFFENDUM is a Syrian-American Hip-Hop artist, born in Saudi Arabia, raised in Washington DC and living in Los Angeles. Known for taking audiences on a lyrical journey from the jasmine-tree-lined courtyards of Nizar Qabbani's Damascene homes, to the flooded riverbanks of Langston Hughes' Harlem Renaissance poems, Offendum has been featured on major news outlets (BBC / Yahoo / ABC News / Aljazeera / Reuters), has toured the world to promote his ground-breaking music, helped raise thousands of dollars for various humanitarian relief organizations (PCRF / KinderUSA / ANERA / Islamic Relief), lectured at a number of prestigious academic institutions (Harvard / MIT / Stanford / Columbia / American University of Beirut / NYU-AbuDhabi / Qatar Education City), and most recently has been involved in creating several critically-acclaimed songs about the popular democratic uprisings throughout the Middle East & North Africa. He is currently hard at work promoting his solo release, affectionately dubbed "SyrianamericanA"... for more info, visit www.offendum.com.

SALMA HABIB is returning to the festival for 2011; she was one of our most popular participants during the 16th Annual Arab Cultural Festival. Salma is a Palestinian singer, dancer and actor who was born in Haifa in 1975. She began her artistic career at the age of seven as the leading dancer in the “Salma Dancing Group” in Haifa. Later, she sang and acted on Arabic TV in Palestine, where she hosted the only Arab children’s show for eight years. She spent seven years on the radio in Palestine, hosting three daily shows which focused on women, Arabic classical music and current events. After moving to the United States, Salma worked as the Education Coordinator at the American Mideast Leadership Network, aiming to empower Arab women and children in Astoria, Queens. Currently, Salma hosts a weekly TV show on the Arab Radio and television channel (ART) which covers current events within the Arab American community. She is currently a Doctoral Student in the Counseling Psychology program at Seton Hall University, New Jersey. Lastly, she is fluent in Arabic, Hebrew and English, and semi-fluent in French and Italian. For more information, visit www.salmahabib.com.