MUSIC OF THREE WORLDS CONCERT
AN ENCOUNTER WITH THE UNIVERSAL IN
WESTERN, ARABIC AND AFRICAN TRADITIONS


ARTIST BIOGRAPHIES

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Performing on the oud (the Arabian short-necked lute) and the tar (the ancient single-skinned frame drum of the Upper Nile), along with his gentle voice and original compositions, Hamza combines the subtleties of Arabic music with the indigenous themes of his native Nubia.  He has single-handedly forged a new music, essentially a Nubian/Arabic fusion, in line with both traditions and informed by Western conservatory training.  His music has captured the interest of listeners worldwide.

First discovered by Western audiences through his performance at the Newport Folk Festival and Vanguard recordings in 1964, his 1971 Nonesuch recording Escalay:  The Water Wheel is legendary among musicians and connoisseurs, and was re-released by Nonesuch in 1998.  Hamza and cellist Joan Jeanrenaud will perform Escalay:  The Water Wheel at the Music of Three Worlds Concert in Berkeley, Nov. 8.

Hamza’s music has been heard in movie soundtracks and his compositions have been performed by many leading ballet companies.  His 1996 album, Available Sound: Darius (Lotus Records, Salzburg, Austria) was nominated for the European equivalent of the Grammy.  He has appeared regularly with the Kronos Quartet, which included Escalay: The Water Wheel on its chart-topping Pieces of Africa album (Elektra/Nonesuch, 1992). 

He was born in a Nubian village, Aswan, Egypt.  Hamza studied at King Fouad University (now the University of Cairo), then enrolled in the Popular University and at Ibrahim Shafiq’s Institute of Music (Shafiq was renowned as a master of Arabian music and of the Muwashshah form).  Later, he studied Western music and classical guitar at the Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome.  Next, he emigrated to the U.S., where he worked as a recording and concert artist and taught as an ethnomusicologist at several universities. Aided by a grant from the Japan Foundation, he went to Tokyo in the 1980s to make a comparative study of the Arabian oud and the Japanese biwa.

Today, Hamza resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and continues composing, teaching, recording and performing.  His worldwide concert schedule includes such major festivals as Edinburgh, Salzburg, Vienna, Paris, Berlin, Montreux, Barcelona, Los Angeles, Monterey and Festival Cervantino (Guanajuato, Mexico). 


REVIEWS


"A master of the oud, the five-string Middle Eastern precursor to the lute, El Din is one of the world’s great musical pioneers, a surpassingly subtle composer and player who has collaborated with artists as different as Thelonius Monk, the Grateful Dead and the Kronos Quartet.”

                     -- Andrew Gilbert, San Jose Mercury News, Oct. 20, 2000

“Hamza El Din, who has made his life’s work reinterpreting the songs of his native region of Nubia on the oud, performed intense music with extreme quietude at Symphony Space….”

 

              -- Ben Ratliff, The New York Times, Reviews, March 2, 1999

 

“(Hamza) began to evolve new musical forms by drawing the moods and colors of Nubian music into the vast technical and aesthetic structure of Arabic classical music.  The result is not a loose amalgamation of two variant forms of music but an entirely new mode of expression.  What is especially significant is his full command of the technical possibilities of the Oud combined with new musical patterns and ideas, growing out of the vocal music and drumming of traditional Nubia.”

                   -- Elizabeth Fernea, liner notes to Escalay, Nonesuch 1998

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For 20 years, Joan Jeanrenaud has been known as the incomparable cellist of Kronos Quartet (described by Rolling Stone magazine as The FAB FOUR of the classical world), arguably the world’s most successful chamber ensemble.  In 1999, she left Kronos to pursue new directions as a performance artist.  Over the past four years, she has worked with a stellar array of composers creating new works for her, and has debuted as a composer and improviser.

Born and raised on a small farm outside Memphis, Tennessee, she started playing the cello at age 11. As a teenager, Jeanrenaud - who was the principal cellist of the Memphis Youth Symphony - developed an interest in contemporary music. She continued her studies with Fritz Magg at Indiana University, where she was a founding member of the IU Contemporary Music Ensemble. A highlight of her college years was her participation as a Fellow at Tanglewood, where she was principal cellist with the Festival Orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein.  After graduating, Jeanrenaud moved to Geneva, Switzerland to study with Pierre Fournier.

Her work with Kronos, which she joined at age 22, included more than 30 recordings and more than 2,000 performances in virtually every major concert hall in the world. As part of Kronos, she worked with hundreds of composers – the who’s who of contemporary artists including John Cage, Philip Glass, Joan Armatrading, and Morton Feldman.  In 1998, Nonesuch released a ten CD boxed set that includes many of the works written for Jeanrenaud and Kronos over the past 25 years.

The premiere of her project METAMORPHOSIS marked her debut as a multimedia performing artist and composer.  In 2002, the CD of METAMORPHOSIS was released by New Albion to ecstatic critical acclaim.  Currently, having just completed the premiere performance of works by Mark Grey, Bob Ostertag and Cenk Ergun at SomArts in San Francisco, she is composing the score for INBETWEEN with artist/designer/filmmaker Bonauro, who has designed the set and is creating the film and video counterpart to her composition.  She recently returned to Europe to begin a multi-year artist-in-residence program in Prague. Future projects include touring METAMORPHOSIS and INBETWEEN, introducing new works and the U.S. and European premieres of Karen Tanaka’s Cello Concerto.

 

REVIEWS

 

"Transfixing Jeanrenaud….there’s a wonderful robustness about the entire project, embodied in both the tonal richness of Jeanrenaud’s playing and the artful probing nature of most of the music.  Jeanrenaud’s sheer technical virtuosity is what a listener notices first – the full-voiced beauty of her string tone, her melodic fluency, her rock-steady rhythmic control…. From Hamza El Din’s beguilingly rhythmic 'Escalay' to Karen Tanaka’s meditative 'The Song of Songs' to Mark Grey’s Gothic 'Blood Red,' everything is tailored to Jeanrenaud’s eloquence and passion, and the results are transfixing.”


                  --Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, November 2002


" 'Escalay' was written by Hamza El Din, the Sudanese oud master who is considered the modern father of Nubian music. Jeanrenaud played on his 1999 album, 'A Wish', so perhaps this is no coincidence. Escalay means 'water wheel,' and according to the liner notes, oxen turned the water wheel in order to irrigate the fields….

As the music fades, we’re left feeling as though the music could go on forever without ever becoming tedious. The playing here is wonderful and occasionally Jeanrenaud squeezes oud-like sonorities out of her cello.

The performances throughout this disk are outstanding examples of topflight musicianship. The musicality of each piece is brought to full bore by Jeanrenaud.”

                         -- John Nelson, MusicTAP, March 21, 2003

 

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Master musician C.K. LADZEKPO is the director of the African music program at the University of California at Berkeley. He has combined a brilliant career as a performer, choreographer and composer with teaching and extensive scholarly research into African performing arts. A member of a famous family of African musicians and dancers who traditionally serve as lead drummers and composers among the Anlo-Ewe people of southeastern Ghana in West Africa, C.K. Ladzekpo has been a lead drummer and instructor with the Ghana National Dance Ensemble, the University of Ghana's Institute of African Studies, and the Arts Council of Ghana.

He joined the music faculty of the University of California at Berkeley in 1973 and remains an influential transmitter of the African perspective in the performing arts. In 1973 he founded the critically acclaimed African Music and Dance Ensemble. As the company's artistic director, choreographer, and master drummer, he has led in many pioneering African dance and polyrhythmic percussion ensemble music presentations at major venues in the United States, Canada, and Europe. He has been artistic director of the Mandeleo Institute in Oakland since 1986. C.K. Ladzekpo's modern concert stage rendition of Atsiagbeko, a traditional war dance drumming suite of the Anlo-Ewe, is one of the features in the television documentary "African Dance at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival" which continues to be a popular broadcast since its national premiere in 1988 on PBS.

REVIEWS


It is one of the most thoughtful and engrossing programs of African dancing, singing, and instrumental virtuosity to be seen in this country in many years…. The presentation is high in quality, blending the old and new. The dancers and musicians of the Ladzekpo Brothers and the African Music and Dance Ensemble were energy personified.”

                -- Anna Kisselgorf, New York Times

“When the energy level goes up a notch or two, as it did for The African Music and Dance Ensemble, it becomes clear just how universal the human music and dance experience is. 'Atsiagbeko' derived from a war dance among the Ewe people, who are clustered in a number of countries along the West Africa coast. Though we may never clearly get the warrior references, we have no trouble understanding the polyrhythmic music and intricate, fast dance movement.

“From the moment the musicians begin playing their drums and gourds, the audience is involved. A foot tapping there, a head swaying there. It is as though these players have found the natural frequencies at which our vital internal organs resonate, and we simply must move to those sounds. This organic, visceral quality becomes ever clearer as we watch the dancers, always hunched over and alert for the fast direction and weight changes, whip and fly through the isolations of torso and extremities, always sustaining the complex rhythms. That deep chord in each of us, literally and figuratively, has been struck.”

                           -- Alex Bloomstein, The Berkshire Gazette


Laurence Rosenthal has achieved international acclaim as a composer of various forms of musical composition, including concert works, theater, and film. Winner of seven Emmy awards and nominee for two Academy Awards, he is also one of the foremost interpreters of the music for the piano composed by G.I. Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann.

Rosenthal studied composition for two years with Nadia Boulanger in Paris and conducted at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. After serving in the U.S. Air Force as chief composer in the Air Force Documentary Film Squadron, he came to New York and began composing for the Broadway theater. This included incidental music for dramatic plays, such as a stage version of Rashomon, Jean Anouilh's Becket, John Osborne's A Patriot for Me, ballet music for musical comedies, including The Music Man, and a musical of his own, Sherry!, based on The Man Who Came to Dinner. He also created a ballet with Agnes de Mille for the American Ballet Theater.

His symphonic compositions were premiered by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, Erich Leinsdorf and the Rochester Philharmonic, and others.  At the same time, he began composing for motion pictures. His original score for the film version of Becket and his adaptation of Man of La Mancha were both nominated for Academy Awards. Among other films he has scored are A Raisin in the Sun, The Miracle Worker, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Hotel Paradiso, The Comedians, The Return of a Man Called Horse, Rooster Cogburn, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Meteor, Brass Target, Who'll Stop the Rain?, Clash of the Titans, Easy Money, Heart Like a Wheel, and Peter Brook's Meetings with Remarkable Men, based on the book by G.I. Gurdjieff.

Composing for television, he was awarded an Emmy for the NBC documentary Michelangelo: The Last Giant.

Later he won Emmys in three successive years, 1986, '87, and '88 for the miniseries Peter the Great, Anastasia, and The Bourne Identity. Among his other miniseries are Mussolini: The Untold Story, George Washington, Evergreen, and Strauss Dynasty, a 12-hour drama about the celebrated Viennese family of waltz composers.

Since that time he has contributed many scores for George Lucas' The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. In 1999 The Film Music Society honored him with its Career Achievement Award. Recently, Rosenthal, Linda Daniel-Spitz and Charles Ketcham recorded four sets of CDs: Gurdjieff/de Hartmann Music for the Piano (Wergo).

 

 

REVIEWS

 

“Laurence Rosenthal has always been one of the finest composers active in films.  His detailed knowledge of all facets of music, coupled with an unerring dramatic instinct, set him apart from the vast majority of composers in the Hollywood musical community.”

 

                        --Jon Burlingame, film music critic and author

 

 We find in Hymns, Prayers and Rituals undoubtedly the most profound reflection of Gurdjieff ... Although quite varied in form and somewhat in style, these pieces all share the unmistakable mark of the depth of his inner feeling and sensitivity…. They might … be viewed as expressions of inner states in which man confronts his inmost self.”
                            -- Eugene E. Foster, album notes

 

 

“Rosenthal’s scores are always surprising and imaginative.”    
         
                            -- Mark Evans, Soundtrack

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Jacob Needleman, lecturer, and professor of philosophy at San Francisco State University, is author of numerous books including The American Soul, A Little Book on Love, Time and the Soul, The Heart of Philosophy, Lost Christianity, Money and the Meaning of Life, The Way of the Physician, A Sense of the Cosmos, and The New Religions. In addition to his teaching and writing, he serves as a consultant in the fields of psychology, education, medical ethics, philanthropy, and business, and has been featured on Bill Moyers' acclaimed PBS series A World of Ideas. Dr. Needleman is an inspiring lecturer who aims to enliven questions through discussion. He investigates and delves, with his audience, into the very essence of the issue at hand. He has spoken to general audiences, college students, businesses and governmental organizations, across the US and internationally. Dr. Needleman's lecture topics bring meaning to the mundane and deep understanding to difficult aspects of everyday life.