Casa Árabe is a Spanish public consortium headed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. It is operated as a strategic center for Spain’s relations with the Arab world, a meeting point where different role-players and institutions, both private and public, from the worlds of business, education, academia, politics, and culture can dialogue, interact, establish lines of cooperation, and undertake joint projects.
Casa Árabe endeavors to promote Arab culture amongst the public in Spain. With an extensive cultural program, its musical performances are notable, bringing a wide variety of artists from the Arab music scenes to Spanish audiences.
Casa Árabe collaborates with Berklee's Mediterrranean Music Institute to give talented Berklee students an opportunity to perform music in the Mediterranean and Arabic traditions at the prestigious Casa Árabe setting in Madrid and Córdoba, an Andalusian city that was once the capital of the Islamic Caliphate.
On February 11, 2014, we inaugurated the MMI Casa Árabe concert series with a performance by Jordian violin player Layth Al-Rubaye and Palestinian cellist player Naseem Alatrash. The concert was presented by Casa Árabe’s director, Eduardo López Busquets, and MMI artistic director Javier Limón.
In an unusual duo setting for Arabic music, Al-Rubaye and Alatrash gave a memorable performance to a packed auditorium. They played a repertoire of traditional songs from Jordan, Egypt, India, Iraq, and Palestine, that combined their musical roots with their own contemporary arrangements. With profound and outstanding performances, the concert was an extraordinary experience and a great start to the longterm presence of Berklee's Mediterranean Music Institute in Spain.
The second performance was to a select audience of 100 people in Córdoba’s auditorium. It was an excellent start to the Mediterranean Music Institute’s journey exploring Arab and Muslim roots in Spain.
"I am extremely happy to have inaugurated the new music season in Casa Árabe Córdoba with Layth and Naseem. Thanks to their musical talent, they have captured the audience with a repertoire of classical Arabic pieces played with contemporary arrangements performed with extraordinary mastery. I hope this concert opens the route to a fruitful collaboration between Casa Árabe and the Berklee Mediterranean Music Institute.”
—Amira Kedier, Casa Árabe Córdoba.
The performance was held in a 14th century building adjacent to the famous Córdoba Mosque-Cathedral, on a World Heritage site. Al-Rubaye and Alatrash's flawless performance and impeccable choice of repertoire was in perfect harmony with the spirit and depth of the cultural heritage that surrounded them.
Watch Al-Rubaye and Alatrash's performance at Casa Árabe:
The second concert in the MMI Casa Árabe concert series was In March 2014. Berklee professor and Lebanese singer Christiane Karam performed, accompanied by three students from Boston and Valencia campuses: Jordanian oud player Fares Btoush, Syrian percussionist and Berklee Valencia Fellow Firas Hassan, and Austrian bass player and performance master's degree student Andrea Fraenzel.
The repertoire included traditional and contemporary selections of Arabic, Balkan, and Mediterranean music laced with jazz and Brazilian influences. The set, which Karam sang in Arabic, Bulgarian, Armenian, and Turkish, included her original compositions.
The two concerts sold out and left audiences mesmerized. Both performance were received with great enthusiasm and praise. Charbel Aoun, the Lebanese ambassador to Spain, attended the event and personally congratulated the performers.
The final MMI Casa Árabe concert of the year was on November 27, 2014. The concert featured graduate students from our Valencia campus: Jordanian violinist Yarub Smarait, Greek percussionist Ilias Papantoniou, and Venezuelan bassist Juan Manuel Guevara. The repertoire combined traditional folkloric music from Turkey, Armenia, and Jordan with contemporary works by Turkish composers Husnu Senlendirici and Goksel Baktagir and Tunisian composers Anwar Braham and Dhafer Youssef.
The third concert by the Mediterranean Music Institute, at Casa Árabe in Madrid, amazed the audience with phenomenal performances of a beautifully selected Mediterranean repertoire.
The concerts were great successes and part of the Mediterranean Music Institute's committment to showcasing Berklee students and helping to promote their talent and careers.
In May 2016, the MMI and Casa Árabe joined the Aix-en-Provence Festival Medinea Network (Mediterranean Incubator of Emerging Artists) with the project Ziryab and Us. A five-day residency in Berklee's campus in Valencia which explored a new view of the Arab musical heritage of Al-Andalus. Five performers from the Mediterranean reinterpreted the musical legacy of Ziryab, a musician who reached ninth-century Cordoba from Iraq, from our twenty-first century perspective. From medieval Spain to contemporary interpretation, this educational and artistic project showed us a whole new approach to his musical legacy.
During the residency, the components of Ziryab and Us recorded "CJ" with both graduate and undergraduate students at the MMI recording sessions in Valencia, and the residency culminated with a concert in the Casa Árabe headquarters auditorium in Madrid on May 9.
Watch a video of the MMI recording session of "CJ":
On October 6, 2016, the MMI joined Casa Árabe in a tribute to the thousands of victims and refugees that have left Syria and Iraq, bringing the extraordinary violin of Iraqi/Jordanian Layth Sidiq ( Al-Rubaye) who performed as a guest artist with the Syrian band Al Turaz Al Andalusí.
Al Turaz Al Andalusí performs traditional Andalusí-rooted music and Sufí (tannoura) dance from Syria. The band is led by Salah Sabbag, a Syrian percussionist from Aleppo established in Spain; Syrian singer Mahmoud Fares, one of the most well known singers of traditional repertoire with an extraordinary prestige for his renditions of Sufi Andalusi Inshad Dini music; and Sufí dancer Babli. Alumni violinist Layth Sidiq '14,'16G will joined this band representing Berklee and perfomed three traditional Syrian tunes to a sold out auditorium in Madrid.
This concert accompanied the photography exhibition Wa Habibi, a visual memory of Syria by photographer Carole Alfarah.