The Berklee Signature Series Presents 13th Annual Middle Eastern Festival

The virtual event features more than 50 students and alumni from over 20 countries performing music from the Middle East, the Balkans, the Mediterranean, and neighboring regions.

June 9, 2021

The 2021 Signature Series continues with the 13th annual Berklee Middle Eastern Festival. The virtual event will be livestreamed on Berklee’s YouTube channel on June 17, 2021, at 7:30 p.m. ET.

The festival celebrates the art and music of the Middle East, the Balkans, the Mediterranean, and neighboring regions, bringing together over 50 student and alumni performers from more than 20 countries across the globe. Past festivals have featured classical Arabic, Turkish, Mediterranean, Balkan, gypsy, and flamenco traditions, and included artists such as Pepe de Lucía, Javier Limón, Bassam Saba, Simon Shaheen, Binka Dobreva, Hüsnü Senlendiriçi, and Tigran Hamasyan. This year’s program seeks to not only highlight the art and music of these regions, but to celebrate the resilience and prevalence of the arts in the face of great global adversity. 

The Pletenitsa Balkan Choir, which features over 35 Berklee students and alumni, will premiere a new choral arrangement of the Bulgarian classic "Izlel E Delyo Haydutin," one of the songs that was sent into space on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. This arrangement was a collaboration between Christiane Karam, the festival's founder and director, and Dimitar Hristov, the renowned composer and conductor of the Bulgarian National Radio Orchestra. 

“Being a part of the Pletenitsa Balkan Choir and the Middle Eastern Festival had been something I had only dreamed of until now,” said Acksharaa Balaji, a student performer based in India. “I’m happy to be a part of a festival that will showcase unity and love through music from different parts of the world, and am so honored to have been able to work alongside so many incredible musicians.”

“It's been a challenging year for the world, and having the opportunity to create music, albeit remotely, has been a deeply healing and rewarding gift,” said Karam. “Both the Pletenitsa Balkan Choir and the Berklee Fusion Ensemble were able to connect across more than 20 countries and countless cities throughout the pandemic, and continue arranging, practicing, and recording. While different in its format, this edition holds special significance for us and we hope everyone enjoys the music as much as we enjoyed creating it.”

Watch the 13th annual Berklee Middle Eastern Festival on Thursday, June 17, at 7:30 p.m.: