Yes, Maqam! Brooklyn-based Arab music group celebrates two years • Brooklyn Paper

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They appeal to the players!

A Brooklyn band that holds concerts of Arabic music twice a month will celebrate their second anniversary during their show on January 28. The bimonthly Brooklyn Maqam events have helped unite the borough’s Arab and music communities while introducing locals to the soulful, microtonal melodies of the Middle East, an organizer said.

“We just got it going and the people in the community absolutely loved it,” said Brian Prunka, resident of Prospect Lefferts Gardens, who founded Brooklyn Maqam with fellow musicians Marandi Hostetter and John Murchison. “Most of our events are sold out.

The band’s popular concert series, Maqam Hang, at the Sisters Bar and Restaurant in Clinton Hill, features a different Arabic music ensemble every two weeks, followed by a one-hour jam session, during which members of the public can take the stage and play Arabic standards together. Open sessions are more structured than the average improv jam session – musicians can choose sheet music for beloved Middle Eastern tunes and join other attendees to bring the songs to life. The system maintains the diversity of music and helps attract artists new to Arabic music, said another co-founder.

“There is kind of an educational and preservationist aspect,” said John Murchison of Clinton Hill.

The three founders say they created the organization to unify the borough’s fragmented Arab music scene and create a cohesive space for musicians to come together. Each Arab group tended to operate in its own sphere and their fans rarely interacted, Murchison said.

“By hosting an event with many different artists, it helped connect these overlapping communities,” he said.

They named the organization “Maqam” after the melodic tone system used in Arabic music. The title includes non-Arabic music that also uses the maqam scale, including Persian and Turkish songs, co-founder Prunka said, and they hoped the word foreign would inspire non-Arabs to learn more about it. ‘event.

“Using a word people didn’t know, we were hoping it would spark a conversation,” Prunka said.

Events have grown considerably over the past two years and attract a diverse audience, including former Arabs, seasoned musicians and young amateurs. The success of the series prompted Prunka to consider hosting other types of Arab arts events, he said.

“At some point we might try to do more multidisciplinary events,” he said.

Brooklyn Maqam’s two-year-old show on January 28 will feature Shelley Thomas and Brooklyn Takht, a group performing songs by Egyptian singers from the early 1900s’ golden era.

Maqam Hang at the sisters [900 Fulton St. between Washington and Waverly avenues in Clinton Hill, (347) 763–2537, www.sistersbklyn.com]. January 28 at 8 p.m. $ 10.

An oud instrument: Taoufik Ben Amor played the oud at a Brooklyn Maqam Roulette concert.Photo by Shelley Thomas


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