Turaath: Celebrating Arab Culture in America


The Lincoln Theatre was nearly a packed house Saturday night, as guests arrived from all over the East Coast to attend the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)’s second annual arts event and fundraiser, “Turaath.”

“Turaath,” which means “culture” or “heritage” in Arabic, featured a lineup of esteemed Arab-American singers and musicians. The show’s first act was primarily a set from the Two Rivers Arab Jazz Ensemble. The group had a classic jazz sound with a distinct Arabic flavor; a saxophone, trumpet and bass played alongside an ‘oud and a santur, traditional Arabic instruments.

Members of the Carrie Ahern Dance company performed to their songs, which were selections from their 2006 and 2011 albums. Their choreography, while seemingly basic, was actually fairly impressive; the jazz ensemble’s leader said one of the songs they danced to had 17 beats per measure.

In fact, the only thing that kept audience members, particularly those in the back rows, from enjoying the first half fully was the theater’s staff, who continued to seat people throughout the show. People aren’t allowed to go their seats during plays at Nationals Park; you would think the same respect could have been shown to these performers.

The show really hit its stride during the second half, which featured sets from singers George Ziadeh and Lubana Al Quntar. Al Quntar was the audience favorite; nearly every song she sang was met with enthusiastic applause and cheers. Many in the audience even sang along. Al Quntar, who recently moved to New York from Damascus, accepted their praise gracefully, bowing demurely after each song. Trained in Arabic and Operatic musical styles, she used both during her performance, which featured songs from famous Arab composers.

While the dancers were the only performers in costume, the show opened with a “traditional dress parade.” ADC staffers and other volunteers modeled various brightly colored Arabic costumes and outfits through the theater’s aisles to the stage, where they posed for photos and applause.

Both acts opened with brief remarks from ADC leaders. Before the second act, ADC president Warren David said the organization had accomplished much during 2012 and would continue to do more in the new year. Dr. Amal David, founder of the ADC Women’s Initiative, said at the beginning of the show that the success of the first “Turaath” proved that both Arabs and non-Arabs alike were interested in learning about Arabic culture.

“Our community, along with those who want to hear about our community, want to come together to share our heritage,” she said.

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