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Sharing Melodies Creating Harmony

Sharing Melodies Creating HarmonyTufts graduate Abdul-Wahab Kayyali – an accomplished performer on the traditional, lute-like instrument called the oud –values diversity in the realm of Islamic music.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [06.20.05] Abdul-Wahab Kayyali (A'2004) has been playing the oud– a traditional Arabic stringed instrument – for more than 15 years, taught by people considered to be masters in the field. A recent performance with fellow Muslim musicians from various parts of the Islamic world provided the Tufts graduate with an opportunity to showcase the diversity of Islamic music and people.

"The commonest perception is that Islam is lumped into one identity, but people from the Muslim world know that's definitely not the case," Kayyali – who was born in Lebanon to a Jordanian family of Palestinian origin – told the Boston Herald.

Kayyali recently performed in the Boston Creative Music Alliance's fifth annual Cultural Constructions concert, "Diverse Voices of Islam," along with Islamic natives of Mali, Pakistan and the United States.

"People don't understand the geographic vastness of the Islamic world," he added to The Boston Globe. "It's impossible for anything but religion to be in common between all these places."

The four musicians showcased both their individual talents and their collective skill through improvisation and collaboration.

"The connections [in this show] are not religious," he told the Herald. "It's the musical traditions that we've grown up with that are representative of where we come from. They're very different, but that won't stop us from collaborating."

The opportunity to work with people from different cultures was appealing to Kayyali, who plans to return to Jordan this summer.

"Whenever there's dialogue between instruments, something good is going to come out of it," he told the Herald. "I don't seek out people from other traditions to play with, but whenever there's an opportunity I welcome it.''

Kayyali hopes performances like this will reshape people's generalizations about Arabic music.

"Amongst the stereotypes that exist about us is that our music is all belly-dancing, exotic and sexy," he told the Globe. "There is that aspect to Arabic pop, but it's a huge oversimplification. We also have classical, respectable, concert-style music."

But more important, he hopes to counteract any negative perceptions of Muslims that some people may harbor.

"I try all I can to dispel stereotypes," Kayyali explained to the Herald. "Obviously you have to try because of current events and the polarization because of the category you get lumped into, which makes me very uncomfortable. But all I can do is be myself and lead by example. People see the news, but if they see me and learn something different from the way I live my life, that's great."






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