Arabesque Music Ensemble
The Music of the Three Musketeers (Xauen Music, 2008)
“Softly, sweetly, softly, sweetly
Sing from me; I’ll give you anything.”
Those lyrics were written by Bayram al-Tunsi and are just a sample of the riches to be found in Xauen Music’s release of Arabesque Music Ensemble’s The Music of the Three Musketeers. Known originally as the Chicago Classical Oriental Ensemble, this talented group of musicians received critical acclaim and accolades for their live performances and their debut CD The Songs of Sheikh Sayyed Darweesh: “Soul of a People.” Now with a new name and a new CD, the Arabesque Music Ensemble turns their considerable talents to interpreting the works of classical Arab composers Muhammad al-Qasabji, Zakariyya Ahmad and Riyad al-Sunbati, known as “al-fursan at-talatha” or the Three Musketeers. Initially part of the repertoire of the orchestra assembled by the famed songstress Umm Kulthum, the Three Musketeers Muhammad al-Qasabji, Zakariyya Ahmad and Riyad al-Sunbati, along with poets Bayram al-Tunsi and Ahmad Rami and an orchestra of skilled musicians, soon became part of the “golden age” of Ms. Kulthum’s legendary career. Here on The Music of the Three Musketeers, the ensemble sets out on a journey to capture these three extraordinary composers.
The Arabesque Music Ensemble has enthralled audiences with the skills of their musicians, so it comes as no surprise that they are frequently cited as favorites on the touring circuit. The musicians that make up the ensemble include percussionist Michel Merhij Baklouk, violinist Hanna Khoury, qanun player Hicham Chami, cellist Kinan Abou-Afach, ‘ud player Isam Rafeh, nay player Moslem Rahhal and vocalist Youssef Kassab.
Warmly and richly wrought, the music on this recording is surely bound to become the standard for Arab music recordings. With elegance and panache, the ensemble dives right in with music by Riyad al-Sunbati and lyrics by Ahmad Rami on the track “’Ala Baladi al-Mahbub.” Wonderful versions of Zakariyya Ahamd’s “Ana f-Intizarak” and “Ghannili Shewayya Shewayya” follow. Muhammad al-Qasabji’s “Leh Tilaw’ini” positively weeps with the heart-heavy lyrics by Ahmad Rami and the ensemble’s musical mastery. The musical expertise on this recording is masterful and Mr. Kassab’s vocals are delightful, making this CD a must for classical Arabic music fans everywhere.