Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Funds Raised to Rebuild Arab American Action Network after Suspicious Fire

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Funds Raised to Rebuild Arab American Action Network after Suspicious Fire

Article excerpt

Supporters of the Arab American Action Network, which suffered major damage in a suspicious fire in December, turned out in force Jan. 27 for a fund-raiser that featured classical Arabic music.

A domed, marble and mosaic-tiled hall in the Chicago Cultural Center was the appropriate setting for the performing ensembles, whose music was infused with spicy rhythms and Spanish motifs, reminiscent of the time when the Islamic empire spanned several cultures.

About 350 people attended the Sunday afternoon concert by three Chicago-based groups. The al-Sharq Ensemble focuses on studying and performing Middle Eastern folk and art music. The al-Amal Ensemble performs a spectrum of North African and Middle Eastern musical genres, emphasizing rhythmic percussion. The Issa Boulos Quintet, which performs all original music, played eclectic pieces incorporating jazz and Flamenco guitar.

Boulos, a Palestinian oud player, participated in all three musical groups, and wrote much of the music that was performed. According to information he provided, he has explored several forms of music, including jazz, European classical, Flamenco, contemporary and Middle Eastern classical and folk repertoire. His pieces have been performed at the Chicago Music Festival and the Jerusalem Festival of Arabic Music and Jazz. Boulos currently is an instructor at Chicago's Columbia College and at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

All three ensembles, as well as the cultural center, donated their services to the network's fund-raiser.

Members of the AAAN, who had been nearly overwhelmed with the task of cleaning up after the fire while maintaining their social service programs, were pleased with the event's turnout. Final figures from the fund-raiser were not available.

Chicago police still are investigating the motive behind the Dec. 4 fire that has been ruled arson. The conflagration gutted the building that housed the Arab American Community Center and the action network, which lost nearly everything. Officials have not released damage estimates.

Network officials say they don't know whether the arson was a hate crime, and the Chicago Police civil rights division has not issued a decision, said Hatem Abudayyeh, AAAN acting director. …

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