Jewish Journal

Melting Pot for Peace

by Gaby Wenig

June 10, 2004 | 8:00 pm

It's hard to imagine a period when Jews and Arabs got along -- but that's apparently what they did from 800-1400 B.C.E., in the historical Al-Andalus period. In Spain and North Africa, Jews, Christians and Muslims got together and collaborated on arts and sciences to create one of the world's most advanced societies.

Now, Al-Andalus, an eclectic group of musicians from all over the world is recreating the spirit of the historical Al-Andalus in concerts that celebrate the mystical pluralism of the Arab-Jewish music traditions.

"The idea with Al-Andalus is that was a melting pot that took place in Spain," said flamenco guitarist and Al-Andalus co-founder Julie Banzi, who spoke to The Journal from Tangiers, Morocco. "We are making an analogy to what happened in Al-Andalus and what is happening now. On an artistic level what we are trying to do is recreate that harmony, so [in our concerts] we do some traditional pieces, some Sephardic pieces, some in Ladino, classical pieces, Andalusian pieces, and we have contemporary work building from that."

At the group's June 13 concert, "Al-Andalus to Jerusalem," organized by the Levantine Cultural Center and co-sponsored by Beyond Baroque Literary/Arts Center, Banzi and her husband Tarik -- who plays oud, ney and percussion, are going to be joined by Israeli-Iraqi ethnic musician Yair Dalal, Los Angeles-based Yuval Ron, Palestinian vocalist Najwa Gibran, Armenian woodwind musician Norik Maoukian, Moroccan/Israeli dancer Maya Karasso, U.S. percussionist Jamie Papish and various other musicians from around the world in a concert that will be emceed by Ahmed Ahmed, an Egyptian born, California raised stand-up comic.

Banzi said the concerts make a "semi-political" statement.

"Many people in modern times think Arabs and Jews have always fought and that they have never gotten along," she said. "One of the side goals [of our concerts] is to say 'no, they haven't always fought,' and by remembering that past maybe we can help create a better future for everyone."

"Al-Andalus to Jerusalem" will take place at the Ford Amphitheatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. on June 13 at 8 p.m. $50-$20. For tickets, call (323) 461-3673 or visit www.fordamphitheatre.org.

For more information on Al-Andalus, visit www.andalus.com .

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