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Presented in partnership with Asia Society Texas Center
Saturday, December 3, 2016, 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, December 4, 2016, 3 p.m.
Asia Society Texas Center, Brown Foundation Performing Arts Theater, 1370 Southmore Blvd.
Each year Houston Arts Alliance’s Folklife + Civic Engagement program shines a light on Houston’s diverse cultural landscape through a concert of devotional music from selected faith communities. Now in its sixth year, Voices of the Spirit has yet to repeat any artists in this eye- and ear-opening lineup.
This year’s program will range from the beautiful Adhan (Muslim call to prayer) and hypnotic Cambodian temple music to mariachi songs for the Virgin of Guadalupe and thunderous percussion evocations of Garifuna spirituality.
Whether through the syncopated beat of the drums and chorus, devotional alabanzas for the Feast Day of the Virgin, traditional Khmer sacred ensemble music, or a cappella intonations of the Q’uran, each religious tradition featured in the concert expresses its specific devotional perspective through a distinctive style.
Voices of the Spirit will begin with an Islamic call to prayer by Mu'ezzin Ameer Abuhalimeh from the Da’Wah Islamic Center, followed by Mariachi Estrellas de Mexico with a repertoire of alabanzas in adoration of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the most important holy personage in Latino Catholicism. The program will continue with the Neak Porn Ensemble performing the portion of their repertoire that is traditionally only performed in Cambodian Buddhist temple settings. The Garifuna group Walagante, who combine percussion, chorus and dance in a traditional spiritual invocation, will punctuate the end of the concert.
Admission is free and open to the public, with reservation, at asiasociety.com/texas. (Limit two per person.) For additional requests, call 713.496.9901. Unclaimed tickets will be released ten minutes prior to the event.
Voices of the Spirit VI is made possible by the generosity of the National Endowment for the Arts, Houston Endowment Inc., Southwest Airlines, and Bill and Sara Morgan.
Initially attracted to the role of Mu'ezzin by the transcendent power of the voice, Mu’ezzin Ameer Abuhalimeh continues to be inspired by the role. The Mu'adhan (pronounced “Mu'azzin” or “Mu'ezzin”) is the person who recites the azhan from the mosque. Mu'ezzin Ameer Abuhalimeh was born in Amman, Jordan, and grew up imitating Mu’ezzini he enjoyed. He began as a volunteer at the Da’wah Islamic Center in 2002. He continues as the center’s Mu’ezzin and also serves as its executive director, using his position to further understanding of the rich history and culture of Islam by establishing a library and a museum, the first of its kind in the United States.
One of the most important holidays in Mexico is El Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe on December 12. This important religious figure is honored and celebrated every year, right before Christmas, and has become a special and joyous occasion in Mexican communities throughout Houston. Many legendary artists have recorded and dedicated alabanzas (songs of praise) to the Virgen de Guadalupe. Every mariachi group worth its salt has these traditional songs in its repertoire. Mariachi Estrellas de Mexico is no exception. Led by Arturo Torres, and formed in 2000, Mariachi Estrellas de Mexico is chock-full of seasoned mariachi musicians who come from a long line of mariachi professionals from their respective families. They are one of the hardest working mariachi bands in Houston and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They are often called to play serenatas at sunrise, perform at weddings and funerals, and enact the misa panamericana at church services.
When a pair of friends of Houston’s Khmer Kandal community met in 1983, one played the khim and the other the tro. They started playing music together with other musicians in 1986. Their popularity within the Khmer Kandal community grew via their performances at the Texas Cambodian Buddhist Temple, at weddings, and other auspicious ceremonies. Eventually their repertoire grew, and the present incarnation of the group was established in 2005. The instrumentation consists of a tro (fiddle), khim (hammered dulcimer), skor (barrel drum), thon (snake-skin drum), krapeau (three- string zither), roneat (xylophone) and ching (chimes). Using these instruments, they create layered harmonies and hypnotic melodies that are central to most traditional Cambodian gatherings.
Started in 2014, Walagante evolved from a group of friends from Honduras. Many of the key members of the group either participated or had family members who were a part of the Ballet Nacional Folclorico de Honduras. Many members of the Garifuna community in Houston hail from Honduras. They are Afro-Caribenos and often tri-lingual speaking Garifuna, Spanish, and sometimes English. The music they play is mainly sung in Garifuna. For them, music is a major aspect of ancestor veneration and connects the Garifuna with their ancestral roots. The primero (tenor drum) is used to embellish and excite, while the segunda (bass drum) keeps time and drives the music. Much like blues music, Garifuna music expresses emotional content, and is widely known for punta and parranda music. The concert will focus on the Fedu: a traditional annual celebration that takes place towards the end of the year and welcomes the New Year. The Fedu incorporates dance, drums, chanting, food, and gifiti (herbed liquor). Displaying a clear African heritage, Fedu music for dancing is composed of rhythmic themes performed by three drummers with alternating call-and-response chanting.