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Riad Abdel-Gawad

CountryUnited States of America
OccupationComposer, Performer, Teacher
CategoriesClassical, Contemporary, Jazz, Other, Soundtrack/Film Music, World

Riad Abdel-Gawad composes music and performs on the violin, which, although does not fit easily into any "box" or genre, points towards likely frontiers that music has taken and will take in the 21st-century. Having composed in three very distinct styles of composition — "contemporary and avant-garde", "polystylistic postmodern", and "international authentic world", his music crosses and fuses a variety of Western and Eastern genres and canons. Having immersed himself for over a decade in a unique guru-based artistic school in Cairo, Mr. Abdel-Gawad is considered by his peers in Egypt to be one of the main protagonists and one of the most serious artists to come out of this particularly distinct school of musical style. This unique Arab music school was developed by Abdo Dagher, legendary violin accompanier to Egyptian singer Oum Kalsoum, the "Incomparable Voice" so-named by Maria Callas. Riad Abdel-Gawad links and preserves a tradition whose roots reach to the Medieval Arabic writers’ and practitioners’ old sources. This school, is the only such teacher-disciple school to develop in recent (c. 100 years) documented Cairo history. Baghdad experienced the development of a similar unique stylistic school, (of Mouneer Basheer) c. 30-40 years ago that focused on `oud—"lute" performance. This Iraqi school now has a small number of renowned second-generation performing artists (e.g. Nasheer Shama, Adel Sallameh). Born in Cairo, Egypt, Riad Abdel-Gawad is a graduate of the University of Southern California, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and Harvard University. He studied with Bernard Rands at Harvard where he earned a Ph.D. in music. Mr. Abdel-Gawad also spent one year of study with Frederic Rzewski at the Conservatoire Royal de Liège in Belgium. Thus, Mr. Abdel-Gawad’s current "postmodern" and "authentic" compositional styles cross-fertilize — mutually from the "East" and the "West" — musical techniques and forms. Presently his music is currently being programmed and listened to on US, Canadian and European radio programs that spin such so-called musical genres as "new age meditative/world beat" and tarab---"enchantment". In fact, his latest CD is entitled, "El Tarab El Aseel", which literally translates as autochthonic enchantment. (Autochthonic is pronounced: "o-'TÄK-thə-nəc", meaning "formed or originating in the place where found; native or indigenous". On this album, which debuted in April 2007 at No. 7 on the NAR Top 100 New Age/Ambient/World Beat Chart, you will hear the classical Middle Eastern ensemble, known as takht, a Persian word, which literally means: platform on which (fin de siècle 19th century) Cairene musicians performed. Mr. Abdel-Gawad’s band members, some of the best musicians today in Cairo, are masters of their respective instruments: qānūn (trapezoidal zither), ūd (Arab lute), nāy (Arab flute) and riqq (Arab tambourine). (Take a listen to all of them on the "music on-line" page). Riad describes that this takht platform or dikka (as it was also known in Arabic) was a raised stage area for musicians to entertain listeners in cafés during the era of Mohamed Ali. He said, "the tekht musicians at the turn of the 20th-century usually consisted of singer, qānūn, as well as the indigenous two-stringed instrument called the kamangah. But this instrument soon fell out of use in favor for the Western violin. Subsequently, the violin appropriated the term kamangah as its own cognomen in Arabic perhaps in deference to its predecessor." In this particular CD the takht features instrumentalists. After graduating from Harvard, Riad principally resided in Belgium, Egypt and Germany and traveled to France and Italy all the while gaining professional music experience. He even worked, iconoclastically, as a street musician in Brussels, Liège and Paris. Having championed the idea that trans-national composition and performance would be one of the frontiers of music in the twenty-first century, Riad Abdel-Gawad strived to authenticate and work towards this idea in his own musical.

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