EARLY 20TH CENTURYFrom the mid-1920s through the early 1960s Arab music flourished in large-scale formal music parties and weekend-long gatherings along the East Coast, often organized as philanthropic events sponsored by the immigrant community. During the same time period the large U.S. record companies began issuing Arab music as part of their marketing to ethnic communities in America. By the 1940s Arab Americans had established their own record labels as a part of the industry. By the 1960s Arabic folk music for dance and other forms of popular Arabic music overtook the traditional "classical" repertoire. Wedding bands (zaffa bands) and private corporate parties are still a major means of support for Arab musicians playing a variety of musical styles from different areas in the Arab World.
ARABIC ORCHESTRAS AND ENSEMBLES IN THE U.S.The modern Arab Orchestra originated in the 1930s when Mohamed Abdel Wahab began to arrange songs for Arab orchestras, large ensembles that mixed Western musical instruments — especially the bowed strings and the concert flute — with traditional Arabic musical instruments.
THE NATIONAL ARAB ORCHESTRAConducted by Michael Ibraham, the orchestra was formed in Detroit in 2010 (see YouTube channel and website). In its concert repertoire the National Arab Orchestra plays arrangements from Wahab's era (1930s through 1970s), as well as contemporary compositions that extend traditions of Arabic music. The Orchestra has also established a community choir and other outreach programs in the belief that "music crosses cultural and historical barriers." [NAO website]
THE NEW YORK ARABIC ORCHESTRAThe orchestra was formed in 2007 by Bassam Saba (see YouTube channel and website).
NYAO Video: "Nirvana" by Basam Saba (Contemporary Arabic suite) with New York Arabic Orchestra:
Bassam Saba of Lebanon is a world-renowned virtuoso, multi-instrumentalist, and leading figure of Arabic music. Saba studied nay, oud and violin at the Lebanon National Conservatory and Western Classical Music and Flute Performance in Paris and Moscow. He has toured extensively with international Arab music singing star Fairouz, Andalusian singer-songwriter Marcel Khalife, and Palestinian-American oud virtuoso and composer Simon Shaheen. He has collaborated with classical and pop stars such as Yo-Yo Ma, Sting, Alicia Keys and Santana, and jazz icons such as Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones. Saba, a highly sought-after teacher of Arabic music, co-founded and directs the New York Arabic Orchestra.
ASEFA (website) / NEW YORK ANDALUS ENSEMBLE (website)
Samuel Thomas is founder and bandleader of Asefa, an ensemble devoted to contemporary approaches to composition, improvisation, and fusion drawn from Sephardic, North African and jazz traditions. Thomas also is executive director of JATM (Jewish Awareness Though Music), an applied ethnomusicology organization focused on cultural exchange through music. [Brooklyn Council on the Arts]