Arab Blues

The Arab Blues traces an innovative trajectory between the call of tradition and the response of the diaspora. The synthesis Rami and Karim create is an auditory expression of not only the power and persistence of il Turath but equally the validity of transformations under the unique cultural conditions we inhabit.

The basis of our work is the canon of classical Middle Eastern compositions and improvisational techniques. This rich heritage consists of melodic and rhythmic exposition and instrumental interaction at countless levels of depth. We interpret these forms in the context of the sounds of the contemporary North American metropole. In this project, the equally lush traditions of Blues and Jazz in Chicago provide the context of how we approach and assimilate the Turath. This marriage of forms is fruitful because of the emotional range of the Blues and the improvisational flexibility and ingenuity of Jazz.

The Arab Blues was developed by Lebanese-Egyptian oud, buzuq, and guitar player Rami Gabriel through a research fellowship at the Center for Black Music Research, two Illinois artist grants, and a decade of experience as a jazz and blues musician in Chicago. Dr. Rami Gabriel is the author of The Emotional Mind (Harvard University Press, 2019) and the forthcoming A Suspicious Science (Oxford University Press). Native Egyptian percussionist Karim Nagi, a two-time beneficiary of the Doris Duke Build Bridges grant for Muslim artists, a TEDx speaker, and accomplished teacher, completes this duo with his energetic and lyrical rhythms on Riqq, Tublah, and alternatively assembled drumset.


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