A recently published Voice of America News feature on music and political change highlighted an educators’ workshop jointly sponsored by Georgetown’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, the Program for Jewish Civilization, and the Turkish Studies Program titled “Explorations into the Music of the Middle East.”
On June 4, 2011, teachers gathered to explore the rich heritage of the Arab, Jewish, and Turkish music traditions, their common threads, and the ways in which the unique characteristics of their melodies, instrumentation, and rhythm have been informed by the dynamic historical and cultural influences in the region.
Chicago-based folk group Lamajamal led the group and provided background information and a rich array of vocal and instrumental examples during the afternoon workshop, which was followed by a public concert.
As stated on the band’s website, Lamajamal combines a wide variety of musical styles, instruments, rhythms, and songs into one universal expression. The goal of the group is to display musically how specific traditions from around the world can harmonize with each other. Their current sound is influenced by music from the Balkans, Turkey, North Africa, and the Middle East, as well as a touch of 60s “Surf Sound.” Each member of the group is trained in different musical traditions; they chose to forge these styles to find historical and musical commonalities. Their name is a palindrome for the Arabic word for beauty, jamal. The play on words symbolizes the use of universal sounds and syllables found in languages of the world.