Middle Eastern Concert at South


Ellie Swigle, Journalist

Yesterday, some South High Students got the opportunity to go to a preview of; “A Tale of Two Cities: The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House tour”. Our High School was lucky enough to have a free concert performed by world renowned artists: Maryem Tollar with vocals and playing the quanun, a type of traditional middle eastern harp, Naghmeh Farahmand with percussion, and Demetri Petsalakis playing the oud, a type guitar commonly used in middle eastern and Syrian music.

The trio began their performance with an original song that they composed with lyrics written by a Syrian refugee who had fled to Canada. Tollar explained how the song was about this person’s expectations of what it would be like to come to Canada but also how it had fallen short of the expectations and that they had not been welcomed into the country. Although the song was in Arabic, the audience was able to tell the sad tone of the song.

Each one of the artists gave information about their instrument and how to play it. Maryem Tollar told students about the scale in which Middle Eastern music is played; it contains half and second steps so it can sound a lot different than typical American music. She also played the Quanun, a type of harp that sits on the players lap. Demetri Petsalakis played a song on the oud, to show us it’s sound and how it was played. The oud is a small guitar-type instrument with 11 to 13 strings. It did sound like a guitar but a lot deeper. My favorite part of the concert was when Naghmeh Farahmand gave a demonstration of her playing a hand held drum. She is incredibly talented and it was amazing to hear her play.

I interviewed a student who also went to the performance. Eleanor VanderWall said; “This free concert was a really cool experience. My favorite part was the drumming. She was so talented. I think we are so lucky that students at South gets to see parts of different cultures that we wouldn’t normally get to see.”

At South High School, we are so fortunate to be able to experience different cultures. I know that when my parents were going to school, diversity was not appreciated as much as it is today. Everyone is able to bring their own aspect of culture to South and make our high school a richer more diverse place.