The Qadim Ensemble

The Qadim Ensemble, a group of Jewish and Arabic musicians, have joined forces to play for peace on a new CD and concert tour of the Pacific Northwest.

Produced by Eliyahu Sills and Six Degrees' artist Jef Stott, "Eastern Wind" is being released worldwide this spring on Embarka Records. The group will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 23, at Havurah Shir Hadash, 185 North Mountain Ave., Ashland.

Sills, the band's leader, says in a press release, "Music can be a tool in spreading cultural understanding and healing. 'Qadim' brings together musical traditions from the diverse cultures of the Middle East, highlighting their many similarities, and pointing to their common roots in the ancient history of the region. This experience of shared musical heritage can strike a chord of peace among people who are struggling to find common ground in modern times."

The band's lead vocalist, Rachel Valfer, adds, "Its hard to hold a grudge against someone who loves something you love, who sits next to you clapping to the same rhythms and moved at the same shift in the maqam mode. We have entered a tense room and felt hostility melt around this musical experience."

Qadim (pronounced ka-deem) is a word found in Arabic and Hebrew meaning "ancient," as well as "that which will come." The ensemble features San Francisco Bay Area-based multi-instrumentalists and vocalists Sills, Bouchaib Abdelhadi, Evan Fraser, Faisal Zedan, Fares Hedayati, John Villa and Valfer.

"Eastern Wind" mixes the sounds of Middle Eastern instruments to create a collection of traditional and original songs that celebrate the shared musical and spiritual heritage of a region now deeply divided by ethnic and religious differences. Featuring folk tunes, improvisations and songs of love and devotion from the 12th century onward, the ensemble uses traditional instruments to travel on a musical journey through Arabia, Armenia, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, Turkey and Yemen.

"Durme Durme," a track from the group's debut CD, "Songs of Qadim," was recently featured on "Mediterraneo" by Difference Music, an internationally distributed four-CD set of 73 traditional and modern Mediterranean songs and 200-page hardbound book showcasing the region's history, geography and culture. The track "Ya Adili Bilah" can be heard on Petrol Records new collector's edition compilation "Arabia: The Greatest Songs Ever."

Sills has been studying and performing music for over 20 years on many instruments, including upright bass, bansuri (the bamboo flute of India) and the ney (the reed flute of the Middle East.) In the early 1990s, he studied the upright bass at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. Deeply influenced by teachers Makanda Ken McIntyre, Arnie Lawrence and Reggie Workman (who worked with John Coltrane and Art Blakey), Sills began performing as a sideman and band leader in jazz clubs such as The Village Gate and Small's.

In the years that followed, Sills applied the musical theory that he learned through his jazz studies to teach himself flute. He studied the ney and the bansuri, traveling to Turkey to continue his musical studies.

Sills has performed and recorded traditional spiritual music of the Middle East with Za'atar, West African folk music with the Palm Wine Boys, soul roots reggae with the Original Intentions and acoustic soul with Sparlha Swa. He has played with Ethiopian-born jazz and soul vocalist Meklit Hadero, performed North African trance with Hamsa Lila, recorded devotional music with Shimshai and toured with Rupa & the April Fishes as well as oudist and composer Yuval Ron.

Sills also mentors young people. He has taught at The Mosaic Project, an educational program that helps children from all backgrounds celebrate diversity, as well as Omega Teen Camp. He teaches a class guiding young men in Richmond, Calif., and also for the rites-of-passage program at Stepping Stones Project.

Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door, $10 for students, $5 for children under 12. Tickets are available at Music Coop in Ashland. Call 488-7716.

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