Salaam Ensemble

Melissa Moniz
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Friday - November 07, 2008
Salaam musician John Bilezikjian plays the Middle Eastern oud as Souhail Kaspar performs on the Arabic tabla or drum

Five masterful musicians from the Arab-American music world will weave their musical talents with stories and cultural and personal narratives at the UH-Manoa Campus Center Ballroom next week Friday (Nov. 14) at 7:30 p.m.

The Salaam Ensemble: Music of the Near and Middle East will introduce exotic and rare instruments such as the oud (lute), nai (cane flute), kemence` (bowed spike fiddle) and darabuka or Egyptian tabla (goblet drum).

Its musicians are director John Zeretzke, a world music composer, musician and educator; adviser Dr. A. J. Racy. a music scholar, composer and nai (flute) player; master musician on the Persian santur (ancient dulcimer) Mashid Mirzadeh, a virtuoso on santur and one of the finest Persian santur players living in the West; master oudist and singer John Bilezikjian, considered to be America’s oud virtuoso; virtuoso drummer and Arabic percussionist Souhail Kaspar, known worldwide for his brilliant technique, exciting performances and teaching skills; and master percussionist of Iran Houman Pourmehdi, well-known for his diverse abilities as a musician, multi-instrumentalist and composer.

Together they have performed on the film soundtracks of Aladdin, The Mummy, The Black Stallion, Prince of Egypt, Troy and others.

Salaam Ensemble is described as a Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Armenian vocal and instrumental musical group, and it represents a tapestry of cultural diversity and common threads.

Tickets for the performance cost $10-$20 in advance, $15-$25 at the door. Cost for children under age 10 is $5 in advance and $10 at the door. Tickets are available online at, or by calling 483-7123. For more information, call 956-8246 or visit

For a sample of their music, visit and click on Salaam Ensemble.

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