Concerts & Events

Wednesday, September 21, 2016  ♦  8:30 PM

Rajab Suleiman & Kithara

On tour as part of Center Stage
World Music Festival Chicago
World Music Wednesday

4545 N Lincoln Ave · The Myron R. Szold Music & Dance Hall · 773.728.6000

  • World Music Wednesdays

    A weekly showcase of world music and dance featuring the best local and touring talent! Most shows are Wednesday nights at 8:30 PM.

    Most World Music Wednesday concerts are free with a $10 suggested donation. TO GUARANTEE YOUR ENTRY MAKE YOUR RESERVATIONS IN ADVANCE EITHER ONLINE OR BY CALLING THE BOX OFFICE AT 773.728.6000. Reservations unclaimed 10 minutes before showtime will be released to waiting patrons.

  • Part of the Rajab Suleiman & Kithara Residency

    Zanzibar Unplugged: Kithara and the Rippling, Worldly Renaissance of Arab-African Taarab

    Tanzanian instrumentalist Rajab Suleiman threw caution to the wind. He took up the vexing, beautifully rewarding qanun, a zither with dozens of strings that features prominently in music around the Mediterranean and Middle East. What followed is renewing one of Africa's syncretic wonders, the poetically allusive, melodically lush, and rhythmically sophisticated music of Zanzibar, the Arabic classical-meets-East African taarab.

    In the form's heyday, taarab orchestras could include 60 or more musicians: violinists, singers, qanun, accordion, and oud players. During the last 20 years, synthesizers and drum machines displaced musicians. Virtuosity--and audiences--were lost.

    To revive the form's striking colors, Suleiman and a few younger players broke off from the venerable Culture Music Club in 2012 to form Kithara, a pocket orchestra capturing all the sonic specialties of acoustic taarab in an original, dynamic way. In uniting older and younger generations, Kithara's musicians are reckoning passionately with the music's Arabic and Ottoman underpinnings, calling out influences from Cuba to India, and welcoming Zanzibar's ngoma folk rhythms and stories. As Peter Margasak noted in his review for Chicago Reader, Chungu, the band's debut album released in 2014, captures this “gloriously and richly acoustic” sound with its “deft real-time interplay and magnificent singing.”

    This rejuvenation will be on show as Rajab Suleiman & Kithara make their U.S. debut tour in 2016, as part of Center StageSM, an exchange program of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, produced by the New England Foundation for the Arts. From July-December, Center Stage will bring five ensembles from Algeria and Tanzania to the U.S. for month-long tours.

    The group's musical heart doesn't demand pondering. Instantly engaging, redolent of Zanzibar's many-layered heritage, Kithara speaks gracefully of what cultural dialogue and intermingling can do. “Zanzibar is an island where many people have come to live and trade for many centuries, so our music is mix of African, Arab, Indian and also European influences,” Suleiman muses. “It's not all that different from America, in that way. In the U.S., many cultures have come together and the music that America is famous for now around the world is a mix of the different cultures coming together in one place.”

    The presentation of Rajab Suleiman & Kithara is part of Center Stage, a public diplomacy initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, with support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Center Stage Pakistan is made possible by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. General management is provided by Lisa Booth Management, Inc.

The Old Town School of Folk Music, Inc.
4544 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago IL 60625  •  773.728.6000