Visiting Tarab at NYC’s Performa 11: Classical Arab Music and Ecstasy


The traveling, thinking musician has been a fruitful template this year, with exciting work from Damon Albarn's Democratic Republic of Congo supergroup and Jace Clayton's Beyond Digital. The latest and most avant garde contribution comes from Lebanese sound artist Tarek Atoui, who invited Anti-Pop Consortium, Mira Calix, DJ Spooky and 13 others—including a violinist, saxophonist and oud specialist—to Beirut to explore the world’s largest and most extensive collection of classical Arab music, a private library comprising thousands of 78 rpm discs and studio tapes from 1903-1950. Saturday night in New York, Atoui and those 16 musicians will interpret their research in a performance entitled Visiting Tarab, commissioned by the Sharjah Art Foundation and New York's visual art performance biennial Performa 11. According to Atoui, "tarab" is hard to define in English, but it refers to the emotional effect of music, particularly classical Arab. "Tarab sessions are known to last hours," he says. "Tarab is a musically induced state of ecstasy." All of which is to say, something is happening and it's going to be bonkers. Below is one of Atoui's songs from a project exploring Maoist and the Pan-Arabist movements, but seeing it performed is half the fun. Tickets to Visiting Tarab are available here.

Download: Tarek Atoui, "Mao Brass Band"

Some Tarab documents from the Foundation for Arab Music Archiving & Research:

Visiting Tarab at NYC’s Performa 11: Classical Arab Music and Ecstasy