Archive for April, 2013

Shams Ensemble & Ukraine Philharmonic Orchestra – One Jaw-Dropping Video

Ukraine Philharmonic Orchestra

Ukraine Philharmonic Orchestra

Shams Ensemble

Shams Ensemble

This Music Monday is truly about the music considering the information on the artists in the video is scarce and it seems this collaboration happened only once. This one video blew my mind and was enough to make me want to share it with you all.
I was getting ready for a gig sometime last week, listening to random folkloric and world music on Youtube by clicking on interesting thumbnails or playlists. Out of everything I heard something struck my ear as new; it was melodic, intricate, dynamic, and powerful. I stopped listening and began WATCHING as this diverse array of musicians poured their hearts into each note they played. The intricacy was ridiculously impressive, and their timing is some of the best I’ve ever seen. My mouth literally dropped. Before I could pick my jaw off the floor – THEY ALL BEGAN SINGING WHILE PLAYING THEIR INSTRUMENTS.
Nuff said. Watch this and be amazed:

Who are they? Who was the genius that combined these musicians for one epic collaborative concert? I had to know more about Shams Ensemble and the Ukrainian Philharmonic Ensemble.

After tracking down some limited information on Shams Ensemble, I discovered they are from Tehran, Iran and their ensemble consists of: KAYKHOSRO POURNAZERI, TAHMOURES POURNAZERI, SOHRAB POURNAZERI, HAMIDREZA TAGHAVI, SHAHAB PARANJ, NEDA KHAKI, KAVEH GERAYELI, HOSSEIN REZAINIA. I was able to find information on 4 of these musicians, 2 of which I had to translate using Google Translate and I believe some of the dates are translated inaccurately. For anyone who can translate what’s written on their facebook pages, I’ve included links in their names below so you can see the source.


Biography: Tahmoures started music in childhood. As a young man, he could play many Iranian instruments. His first live performance on tanbur was with the Shams Ensemble the age of 12. Tahmoures’ understanding of Persian traditional music, poetry and literature, the music of tanbur, Kurdish music, and Western classical music brings diversity and ingenuity to his compositions and performances.


Biography: Composer, Cellist and Percussionist. Shahab Paranj started playing the Persian Tombak as a child, encouraged by his father who played the Santour. He began cello with Majid Ismaili at the Tehran Music School and later studied with cellist Karim Qorbani at Tehran University. In 2000, he joined the internationally respected Shams Ensemble as a percussionist. In 2002, he joined the Symphonic Orchestra of Iranian Television.

After he graduated with Bachelors degree in Cello from Tehran University of Music he immigrated to the US and chose composition for his music career. Paranj is currently enrolled at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, studying composition with David Garner, piano with Alla Gladysheva and cello with Jennifer Culp.

As a seasoned performer, Paranj’s true strength as a percussionist lies in modern Tombak styles, although he is a master of many other styles of traditional Persian percussion. He has performed on more than 30 CDs with musicians all over the world, appearing at more than 100 venues, including Lincoln Center in New York, Theater de la Ville in Paris, Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, Gothenburg Symphony Hall, and most recently at the Segestrom Center for the Arts in Orange County.

Relatively new to composition, Paranj’s unique style blends Persian rhythmic and melodic influences with Western texture and form. To date, he has written pieces for solo viola, solo guitar, string quartet, chamber ensemble, and percussion.


Biography: (Translated on Google Translate) Teachers: Kai Pvrnazry and Ardeshir Kamkar, The Shams Group Membership in 1377, Understanding of instruments: strings, sitar, fiddle and tabor


Biography: (Translated on Google Translate) Pvrnazry Kai was born in 1323 in Kermanshah. Her father, Parviz Pvrnazry known as Haji Khan, a student of Colonel Alinaghi minister, Darvish Khan and his mother, Pvrandakht Srhddar, founding the first national school girls and was the first woman to graduate in Kermanshah. Kai tar began with music from an early age and his father Books Conservatory of Music, Minister of Traditional Music row in Iran and learned. Ancient Persian literature and poetry from her mother and learned to understand the presence of giants like Saturn Kermanshah Behzad Samii. He studied civil engineering and in the third year it was abandoned because it did not match his mood. Then entered the School of Fine Arts at Tehran University was born. He later attended the Dadbeh mentor to him 12 years to learn the history and culture of ancient Persia.
Kai Pvrnazry founded in 1359 that it was Shams Group TABOR, TABOR Preview new way to look at the group playing music from the music. From this perspective, what would it be Kai Pvrnazry mechanism TABOR later Kamkars experience in urban compared to Kurdish music.His work in this area will take shape. The group’s debut album, “Love, the voice of” Shahram Nazeri was. Pvrnazry occur in the mid 70’s to the kids, and S. Thmvrs serious change in the switch Shams was the result of more than 300 concerts inside and outside Iran. It works because “their health Mastan” sound Bijan Kamkar, and “hidden Chvdl” sound Hamidreza Nourbakhsh the public release of data.

The information on the Kiev based Ukraine Philharmonic Orchestra, is a bit more accessible, and can be found on their website  and on their facebook page. Here is an excerpt from their History page.
The National Philharmonic of Ukraine started its concerts seasons in 1863, when the Kiev Branch of the Imperial Russian Musical Society (ERMS) was founded. At the beginning of the XIX century, the development of the musical art in Kiev assumes a great  importance. Famous European musicians, as Franz Liszt and Weniawsky brothers, come with recitals to the famous Kiev Contract Fairs. Thus, the creation of the musical society turned out to be quite timely. Among its initiators and founders were such well known at that time public figures and musicians as R. Pfening, M. Lysenko, P. Seletsky, M. Bogdanov.
Now creative composition of the Philharmonic includes 19 People’s and 32 Honoured Artists of Ukraine, 6 Honoured Personalities of Arts, 5 Honoured Workmen of Culture of Ukraine, many laureates of International and Ukrainian contests, 11 artistic groups which increase the glory of Ukrainian national culture. In 1995 the Symphony Orchestra of the National Philharmonic of Ukraine was created. The National Philharmonic of Ukraine, alongside with its active concert activity aiming broad propaganda of domestic and foreign art, classical heritage, reviving Ukrainian national culture, constantly conducts international contests and festivals (Contest of young pianists of Vladimir Krainev, Contest in memory of Vladimir Horowitz and others). It takes part in national and international artistic projects, presentations, creative reports, in artistic-cultural and public events at participation of leaders of the State and Government, in scientifically-practical conferences, exhibitions etc.
I may never know what concert this was and how these outstanding groups got together, but I’m sure glad they made it happen. If you have a story on either of these groups, or if you know more information on the video, post it in the comments below!

Upcoming Spring 2013 Bellydance Workshops/Classes with Kendra Ray



Thursdays, (4/25/13 – 5/30/13) Basic Performance: Intro to Classic Oriental Show Structure Intermediate Course Taught by Kendra Ray

Thursdays 6-7:30 (70 minutes of dance – 10-15 minutes of discussion) 6 weeks – $85 or $20/class for drop-in Session runs from 4/25/13 – 5/30/13

For the dance student who is ready to advance from basic bellydance drills to the next level of performance training! As we familiarize ourselves with the movement execution, we will review the Classic Oriental Bellydance show structure and examine the following components: Entrance/Exit Techniques, Raqs Sharqi, Taqsim, Raqs Beledi, Saidi Style, and Percussion Solo. For more info on registration and location, visit:


April 28th – Workshops with Kendra Ray, Abida Blaze, Asima, and Azziza Salem

12:00 pm: “Fun With Arabic 1” by Kendra Ray, 1:10 pm: “Abdominal Isolations” by Abida Blaze, 2:20 pm: “Stage Presence” by Asima, 3:30 pm: “How to Get There” by Azziza Salem, 4:45 pm: Lunch with pizza, salad, soft drinks, desert! 

For pricing, registration, and other info, visit


May 18-19 – Detroit Raqs Bellydance Convention Workshops and Show

Sat and Sun workshops with: Lana Mini (Detroit Bellydance), Mia (Lunatic Vagabonds & Unveiled Bellydance), Sarah (Boheme Tribal), Aegela (Ohio), Victoria Lara and Lisa Montes (El Alma Espanola Flamenco), Jenabah (Tree of Life), Kendra Ray (Ann Arbor/Metro-Detroit), Leilah (Bollyfit), Raks Incendia (Traverse City), Leilani (Izgreyala, Mandali Studio), and Richard Harper (Broadway, National Theatre, Unveiled Bellydance)

Sat Showcase: Enjoy an evening of beautiful bellydance featuring our talented instructors at what is sure to be one of the best shows of the year. Join in the fun and perform yourself – Space is limited!

For pricing, registration, and other info, visit

Abdel Halim Hafez – Egypt’s Nightingale

Abdel Halim Hafez – Photo source:

To say his music is still played today is an understatement – Abdel Halim Hafez is still revered to this day. Half a century after his music was revealed to the masses, his compositions remain some of the most demonstrated and unique examples of this genre. Considered to be one of the Great Four of Arabic music – the other three being Umm Kulthum, Mohammed Abdel Wahab, and Farid Al Attrach – his music has become a staple for many fans of Arabic music and of course, bellydancers.Personally, his music moves me to the core and remains some of the best emotive pieces I have the privilege of dancing to when working with live bands in the Arab-American community in metro-Detroit.

Like many artists of his day, his talents weren’t limited to singing and composing music – Abdel Halim Hafez was also a conductor, an actor, a music teacher, and a producer. Surprisingly, despite his long list of film credits and having composed over 260 songs through his career, he rarely recorded a studio album. Abdel was known as primarily a live performer and earned such nick names as, “King of Arabic music”, “The voice of the people”, “The son of the revolution”, and “King of emotions and feelings”.

Perhaps his ability to deliver emotion was based on his real-life experiences. Born as Abdel Halim Ali Shabana, his mother died due to labor complications shortly after he was born and his father passed away just five months later. As the youngest of four children, they spent some time in an orphanage before living with their aunt and uncle.  Abdel’s older brother was his first music teacher and at the young age of eleven, he joined the Arabic Music Institute in Cairo and became known for singing the songs of Mohammed Abdel Wahab  in addition to playing the oboe, drums, piano, oud, clarinet and guitar. This would prove to affect his fate more than he could imagine.

Decades later in 1953, Abdel found himself working in the Cairo nightclubs when he suddenly got a call to “fill in” for a singer who was scheduled to do a live radio broadcast. His performance was heard by the supervisor of musical programming for Egyptian national radio who just happened to be Mohammed Abdel Wahab  and the rest is history. From there, Abdel changed his name from Abdel Halim Shabana to Abdel Halim Hafez – Hafez being Mohamed Abdel Wahab‘s first name and a way to pay tribute to him. At first, Abdel’s music was not well received but slowly gained the respect and adoration of the Egyptian people as the “first romantic singer of Egypt”.

In collaboration with composer Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Abdel Halim went on to produce many popular love songs such as Ahwak (“I adore you”), Nebtedi Minen el Hekaya (“Where should we start the story”), and Fatet Ganbina( “She passed by us”). Hafez also worked with Egyptian poet Mohammed Hamza on songs including Zay el Hawa (“It feels like love”), Sawah (“Wanderer”), Hawel Teftekerni (“Try to remember me”), Aye Damiet Hozn (“Any tear of sadness”), and Mawood (“Destined”). click here for source

Presently, his music has been noted as inspiration for the 2011 Egyptian revolutionaries as it represents the “heart” of their country and legacy. Some other interesting facts on his current effect on the music industry:

In 1961, he formed alongside Mohamed Abdel Wahab and Madgi El Amroussi, the now famous recording and film production company, Soutelphan which continues to direct to this day as EMI Arabia. click here for source

Abdel Halim Hafez’s song Khosara (خسارة) received notice in the Western world in 1999 when producer Timbaland used elements from it for Jay-Z’s recording “Big Pimpin’.” Two complete bars from “Khosara” were rerecorded, not sampled, and used without permission from the song’s producer and copyright holder, Magdi el-Amroussi. Jay-Z’s use of an interpolation, rather than an actual sample, may allow him to avoid paying royalties for the use of the song. click here for source

And now what you’ve been waiting for – the videos. Patience is required for the modern music listener – we are transporting back in time before mp3s and sensationalized music snippets and into a realm of overture-worthy compositions, sometimes lasting an hour. I’ve tried to find shorter examples for you as I know time is valuable in this day and age.

Abdel Halim Hafez and his Orchestra perform “Sawah” LIVE:

Abdel Halim Hafez sings “Gana El-Hawa” in the film Abi Foq El-Shagarah 1969 – Starring Abdel Halim Hafez, Nadia Lutfi, Imad Hamdi and Mervat Amin. Lyrics by Mohammed Hamzah, Composed by Baligh Hamdi .

An example of an interpretation of his music used for a LIVE band and dancer collaboration. While there are better examples of bellydancers using his music out there, this video is a favorite of mine because of the reaction of the crowd to this song as I witnessed it first-hand. That’s me dancing in Spring 2012 with the Suraya house band at Suraya nightclub at Regency Manor in Southfield, Michigan. The song is “Qariat Al Fingan”.

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