New York’s Mini-Global Mashup Series Brings Cultures Together
On March 13 at 1 PM EST, Common Ground: Mini-Global Mashups will return with a live presentation of India Meets Egypt. Dedicated to world music fans, the concert will feature two solo musicians, one from each presented culture.
Common Ground features artists of various disciplines, practices, or cultural identities, who explore global connections and celebrate elements that make different cultures unique.
The 2022 season of the series is curated by acclaimed trumpeter and composer Frank London who for this event brings together Indian singer-songwriter Falu and Arabic violinist, vocalist, and rababa player Sami Abu Shumays. They will be accompanied by Gaurav Shah on harmonium.
The Global Mashups have been held at Flushing Town Hall since 2013. Before COVID-19 hit, the shows involved two bands representing different countries. However, the “mini” mashup series began in Fall 2021, when the venue first re-opened to public audiences – with the intent to restart the series with a smaller number of musicians due to COVID restrictions and concerns.
The goal of the venue “is to celebrate global cultures, and to bring diverse people together through the arts,” Sami Abu Shumays, deputy director of Flushing Town Hall, told The Violin Channel. “I feel like it is one of the most open cultural spaces in all of New York City, because of its lack of allegiance to any one particular cultural tradition above others. Education is also a core part of its mission.”
Of the two performers this weekend, Falu is a two-time GRAMMY nominated artist for her children’s albums Falu’s Bazaar and A Colorful World. Born in Mumbai, she is currently based in New York and has collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma, Wyclef Jean, Philip Glass, Ricky Martin, Blues Traveler, and A. R. Rahman, among others.
Shumays is a co-founder and musical director of the Arab music and dance ensemble Zikrayat and is an expert in the Egyptian and Syrian music traditions. He studied Western classical music, piano, violin, and composition as a boy, and later at Harvard University.
Born in Pennsylvania, he is a second-generation Palestinian-American immigrant. “Learning Arabic music was a way for me to connect more deeply to my own heritage,” he told The Violin Channel.
“Arabic music differs from Western music in several ways,” he continued. “First of all, it doesn’t use harmony, and instead focuses on melodic development…similar to Indian music.,” he continued. “The tuning system in Arabic music is different [in that] Arabic scales have a lot of what music theorists like to call ‘microtones’ – notes in between [those] of Western scales.”
Shumays explained that Arabic music is also very ornamental in its use of melodic decorations that are “obligatory rather than optional in the music.” He said the mini edition of Global Mashups has allowed “more intimate conversation among the musicians from different backgrounds – leading to some really interesting music making in the [series’] previous concerts.”
“What I’m most looking forward to is just playing with Falu again. We’ve been friends for nearly two decades, and I’ve performed with her many times over the years,” Shumays told us. “She’s one of the most astonishing musicians I know, and I always enjoy the energy she brings to the people around her on stage and in the audience…I’m excited not only to play some of her music, but to have her perform some Arabic songs with me!”
“In ancient times, India and Egypt were connected along the Maritime Silk Road, learning from and influencing each other’s cultures,” said Flushing Town Hall executive and artistic director Ellen Kodadek in the press release. “Today, India and Egypt are strongly represented in Queens. We’re excited to mash up and explore these two rich and vibrant cultures through music.”
The Mini-Global Mashup performance will be followed by a Q&A discussion between the artists and audience members.
To attend the event in person, click here.
A free livestream of the event can be accessed here on the day.
The second concert in April will be "Southern Italy Meets Senegal," with tickets available here.