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CMAC Coordinator Announces Publication of Music in Arabia

Issa Boulos, Coordinator of Harper’s Community Music and Arts Center, announces the release of Music in Arabia: Perspectives on Heritage, Mobility, and Nation, published by Indiana University Press.

“I have been working on for the last 7 years. I started this project in early 2014 through a symposium in Doha, Qatar, and then collaborated with NYU to bring in more scholar to write about this particular region. I have co-authored a chapter in the volume which is about the legacy of former slaves in Qatar, their music, community, rituals, integration and identity. I co-edited the volume with two other renowned scholars, Virginia Danielson (Harvard), and Anne Rasmussen (William & Mary).”

Read below for more information about “Music in Arabia” or learn more at https://iupress.org/9780253057532/music-in-arabia/

Issa Boulos is an international award-winning Palestinian-American composer, lyricist and songwriter. His works have been performed by various groups and orchestras around the world and are rapidly developing a loyal following.

Born in Jerusalem in 1968, Boulos studied piano, ‘ud and voice at an early age and later pursued music composition in the U.S. where he studied with Gustavo Leone, Robert Lombardo, Athanasios Zervas and Ilya Levinson. Throughout his career, Boulos injected new life into his music, incorporating traditional instruments in innovative ways. He composed music for full orchestra, chamber, mixed ensembles and traditional ensemble (takht), and wrote hundreds of songs including several hits. Among his commissions are four pieces for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, composition/performance for the Silk Road Ensemble, original scores for award-winning documentaries, plays, feature films and musicals.

Issa’s mission is to enrich the quality of music education and strengthen the cultural and social understanding and support by audiences. Through these efforts, he has gained recognition in the United States, the Middle East, Europe and beyond. He acted as lecturer at the University of Chicago where he directed the Middle East Music Ensemble for almost a decade. He acted as the Head of Music at the Qatar Music Academy until 2014. He is currently the Coordinator for the Community Music and Art Center at Harper College.


Music in Arabia: Perspectives on Heritage, Mobility, and Nation presents a twenty-first-century look at musical life and expressive culture in the Arabian Gulf and Peninsula. The book addresses the ways in which musical expression sustains the diverse and cosmopolitan communities that comprise this region and offers perspectives that challenge such intellectual categories as Global South, Global North, and Middle East. Our book introduces new work by young scholars, some of them native to the region, and includes contributions from established intellectuals with experience in the Gulf and elsewhere in the Arab world and Indian Ocean region. In addition to ethnomusicological research, we present the accounts of cultural leaders who work at institutions dedicated to preservation and presentation, including the Oman Centre for Traditional Music, the Hamdan bin Mohammed Heritage Center in the UAE, and the Qatar Music Academy. Our writers—young scholars and experienced authors, citizens and expatriates, folklore professionals and advanced students—bring multiple and different voices to the subject. Our experiences and perspectives differ significantly from one another. Together, our collection of essays offers an expansive view of music in the region. It presents a fresh look at Arabia, raising new and interesting questions about the Peninsula, the Gulf, and the Indian Ocean world as a whole.

The collection of essays has its origin in two international symposia, one at the Qatar Music Academy and the other at New York University in Abu Dhabi. In 2014, the Qatar Foundation’s Qatar Music Academy launched a research project to explore the music of the region in greater depth. Starting with a symposium, it ignited interest in further research by bringing together scholars who had worked in the region and encouraging new investigation and publication. With the intention of leading to an edited volume, a symposium took place in Doha, Qatar, April 26–28, 2014. The academy invited fifteen researchers whose ethnomusicological work focused on the region to identify key issues, present research, and contextualize their ongoing research projects within a broader, modern Middle East.

In March 2015, the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute organized a similar international workshop on the music of the Arabian Peninsula, intending to follow up on the work of the Qatar Music Academy. An ancillary goal of this workshop was to bring together the older and the younger generations of ethnomusicologists to assess the current state of research and scholarship, with an emphasis on putting the experience of the senior scholars in dialogue with research of younger ones, to point to possible developments in the future.

The present volume results from both of these efforts, and we are extremely grateful to the Qatar Music Academy and the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute for their very generous support. Martin Stokes and Walter Feldman participated in the original organization of the two events, and we thank them as well. Participants in the events who did not choose to include their presentations in this volume nevertheless enriched our discussions in situ, and we are grateful to Stephen Blum, Salwa El-Shawan Castelo-Branco, Bradford Garvey, Toufic Kerbage, and Lisa Urkevich for their earlier contributions to our collaboration.

The volume’s coeditors, Issa Boulos, Virginia Danielson, and Anne K. Rasmussen were present at both symposia and eventually became the team to see this collection of fresh and varied perspectives to its fruition. We enjoyed a lively, highly productive collaboration and division of labor during the time that this book was in development.


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