Berklee Middle Eastern Festival, February 8

The second annual event features an artist residency by Hüsnü Şenlendirici and the New York Gypsy All-Stars.
January 25, 2010

Berklee College of Music presents its second annual Middle Eastern Festival on Monday, February 8, featuring world-renowned Turkish clarinet virtuoso Hüsnü Şenlendirici, the New York Gypsy All-Stars, and the Berklee Middle Eastern Fusion Ensemble directed by Christiane Karam. The concert showcases a variety of Middle Eastern styles, including Lebanese folk music, Arabic classical music, and Turkish Gypsy fusion—a style based on traditional Turkish music mixed with contemporary jazz and Western grooves and harmonies.

The Berklee Middle Eastern Festival is $10, all ages, and begins at 8:15 p.m. at the Berklee Performance Center, 136 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, MA. Call 617 747-2261 or visit for more information.

Leading up to the concert, Şenlendirici and the New York Gypsy All-Stars will work with Berklee students as part of an artist residency that includes a master class and clinic. The clinic, which is free and open to the public, takes place Monday, February 8, 1:15 p.m.–3:00 p.m. at Berk Recital Hall, 1140 Boylston St, Boston, MA.

The Berklee Middle Eastern Fusion Ensemble opens with a set that includes music by Şenlendirici and his group Laco Tayfa, Philemon Wehbe, the Rahbani Brothers, and Mesut Kurtis. Şenlendirici will join the students onstage for the closing numbers. The second set, featuring Hüsnü Şenlendirici and the New York Gypsy All-Stars, culminates with the guest artists and student ensemble performing together.

Christiane Karam, assistant professor of voice, founded and directs the Berklee Middle Eastern Festival. Says Karam, "I envisioned an annual event that would bring artists to the school from various regions of the Middle East and the Balkans, and bring together students from all over the world to experience this music. I feel this festival bridges cultures and promotes dialogue in ways that are artistic, human, and deeply rewarding."

Hüsnü Şenlendirici, a native of Bergama, Turkey, picked up clarinet at 5. He attended the Turkish Music State Conservatory at Istanbul Technical University, where he started playing with the Magnetic Band, appearing in hundreds of festivals and becoming a musical ambassador for Turkey. Şenlendirici also toured with Embrio and with his father's sextet Laco. He then formed the band Laco Tayfa, and collaborated with the Brooklyn Funk Essentials for a critically acclaimed album and concert project. Şenlendirici released a solo album in 2005. He continues to perform internationally and in 2009 was featured at Summer Stage in New York's Central Park.

The New York Gypsy All-Stars showcases some of New York's finest musicians playing jazz-inflected Turkish, Balkan, and Mediterranean Romani (Gypsy) songs and original pieces with a personal touch. They have performed with such world music icons as Turkish clarinet master Hüsnü Şenlendirici, and Bulgarian masters Ivo Papasov and Yuri Yanakov. The group is the brainchild of Serdar Ilhan and features Ismail Lumanovski (clarinet), Tamer Pinarbasi (qanun), and Berklee alumni Panagiotis Andreou (bass), Engin Gunaydin (drums), and Jason Lindler (keyboard). Ilhan is producer of the New York Gypsy Festival.