World Arabic Language Day is a momentous occasion celebrating the linguistic and cultural richness of the Arabic language. On the 18th of December, 2023, the UN Chamber Music Society, in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Festival, organized a spectacular concert at the renowned Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. This event not only commemorated the beauty of the Arabic language but also paid homage to its profound influence on art and science. In this article, we will take you on a musical journey through the heart of Arab culture as we explore this extraordinary celebration.
A Night of Musical Splendor
The UN Chamber Music Society’s Ode to the Arabic Language
The concert at Weill Recital Hall was a testament to the power of music in bridging cultures and languages. It featured a diverse repertoire of music, each piece weaving a tapestry of emotions and stories from the Arab world. Brenda Vongova, the founder and President of the UN Chamber Music Society of the United Nations Staff Recreation Council, opened the evening with warm gratitude towards Her Excellency Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo, Founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, and Founder and Artistic Director of the Abu Dhabi Festival, for their unwavering support.
Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh’s Message
A Diplomatic Prelude to Musical Harmony
Before the music began, a message from Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh, Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations, was delivered. Her words set the stage for an evening that would transcend borders and languages, emphasizing the importance of this partnership in promoting the Arabic language’s cultural and intellectual value on a global scale.
Celebrating Arabic Culture at Carnegie Hall
Music as the Universal Language of Expression
Her Excellency Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo eloquently highlighted the significance of celebrating World Arabic Language Day at Carnegie Hall, one of the most prestigious art venues in the United States. The goal was clear: to elevate the global presence and appreciation of the Arabic language, emphasizing its role in fostering coexistence and global peace through the medium of music.
The Magic of Arabic Poetry and Music
Echoes of the Arab World in Carnegie Hall
Through the masterful performances of eight Arab and international musicians, led by the renowned artistic director and pianist Brenda Vongova, the audience was transported into the world of Arabic poetry, singing, and music. The verses of eminent artists such as Kazem Al Saher, Abdul Majeed Abdullah, Kinan Azmeh, Gibran Khalil Gibran, and Ibrahim Touqan resonated in the hearts of the global audience.
Arabic Language – A Cultural Pillar
Exploring the Diversity and Significance
Arabic, spoken daily by over 290 million people, is a pillar of cultural diversity. The program was divided into two halves to celebrate Arabic Language Day through music: classical Arabic repertoire in the first half and popular music from the Arab world in the second.
Unveiling the Musical Journey
From National Anthems to Contemporary Compositions
The music program commenced with the stirring “Songs of Arab Countries,” inspired by the National Anthem of Arab countries, as performed during the 2022 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony in Qatar. This opening piece set the tone for a night filled with musical brilliance.
Tribute to Edward Said
Kinan Azmeh’s Emotional Ode
Syrian composer, Kinan Azmeh’s moving “Tribute to the Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said”, was a poignant exploration of emotions. This composition served as a reminder of the profound impact of Arab culture on the world stage.
Karim Al-Zand’s Vibrant Composition
Tunisian composer Karim Al-Zand’s “Bagatelle” brought vibrancy and energy to the stage. This contemporary classical piece showcased the evolving nature of Arabic music.
A Glimpse of Ancient Beauty
Lamma Bada Yatathanna: A Timeless Poem
The musicians treated the audience to “Lamma Bada Yatathanna,” an ancient poem from Al-Andalus that dates back to the 9th century. This exquisite performance captured the captivating beauty and love of the Arab world.
Desert Nights by Amer Jafar
A Musical Journey through Kuwait
“Desert Nights,” composed by Kuwaiti classical composer Amer Jafar, transported the audience to the mystical deserts of Kuwait. The music evoked imagery of endless dunes and starry nights.
From Iraq to the World
Kazem al-Sahir: The Caesar of Arabic Music
The concert’s second half featured popular music, including the works of celebrated artists like Kazem al-Sahir from Iraq. Known as the Caesar of Arabic music, his song “Eid al ashak” celebrated the essence of love and unity.
Fairuz’s Timeless Melody
A Tribute to Lebanon
Lebanon’s iconic Fairuz graced the stage with her famous song “Aatini Nay.” Her music transcends generations and continues to hold a special place in the hearts of many.
“Hold Your Fire” – A Symbol of Unity
Kadim Al Sahir and the UN Chamber Music Society
The concert’s grand finale featured “Hold Your Fire,” a song co-produced by Kadim Al Sahir and the UN Chamber Music Society. This powerful composition symbolizes a commitment to promoting love, solidarity, and unity.
The Enthusiastic Audience
An Evening to Remember
The concert drew an audience from both the international community of the United Nations and the local New York community. The Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall witnessed a near-full house, with every chord striking a chord in attendees’ hearts, evoking feelings of nostalgia, appreciation, and pride for the rich Arabic musical tradition.
Harmony in Diversity
The celebration of World Arabic Language Day at Carnegie Hall was a harmonious fusion of cultures and languages through the medium of music. It showcased the profound impact of the Arabic language on art and science, emphasizing the importance of cultural diversity and global understanding. As the notes echoed through the hallowed halls of Carnegie Hall, they served as a reminder that music is indeed a universal language that unites us all. This celebration was a testament to the power of music to bridge gaps and foster harmony in a diverse world.