San Diego is home to a number of music ensembles specializing in various world-music traditions. However, none is dedicated specifically to the study and practice of music from the Middle East and North Africa.
This semester marks the founding of the Caravan World Music Ensemble, directed by music professor Farhad Bahrami and in residency at Grossmont Community College. Bahrami holds a Master of Arts in music from San Diego State University and has led various music groups based in San Diego — notably Dornob Collective — for the last 30 years, and has collaborated with many of the city’s musicians and cultural organizations as well.
The ensemble, open to all levels and instruments, focuses on music that stretches from the Moorish kingdoms of Andalusia in Spain, down through Morocco, and across the rim of Africa to the rich music traditions of Afghanistan and Iran.
The one-unit class offered through the department of music offers students and community members an opportunity to become involved in a living tradition of music that includes possibilities outside of Western music, including the so-called “quarter-tone” interval characteristic of some, but not all, Middle Eastern music. Additionally, students will learn about rhythmic systems of the Middle East and improvisation, as well as areas of interest to the players themselves.
The Grossmont Middle East Ensemble, the first of its kind in the county, will be working toward performances with an eye on enriching the already vibrant San Diego music scene with the diversity of music from the Middle East and North Africa.