photo credit Evan Christopher

Rutgers University-Newark Middle East Music Orchestra

Join the orchestra! 

Fridays 5-7 at Bradley 236

The Middle East Music Orchestra was funded by a Chancellor’s Seed Grant and provides opportunity for study, exploration, and performance of various genres of Middle Eastern music in its broadest sense, as well as collaboration with the community, scholars and students in the interdisciplinary Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies program.

The underlying focus of the orchestra is on the theoretical and practical aspects of maqam, the principal musical modal system associated with this region of the world. Through its work, the orchestra performs classical, modern, and popular genres from the Middle East and North Africa, in classical, devotional, folk, and urban forms. The repertoire includes instrumental and vocal pieces, sung in a variety of languages that reflect the centuries-long interaction of Arab, Turkish, Persian, Armenian, Greek, Kurdish, Assyrian, and Sephardic Jewish cultures in the region. The Middle East Music Orchestra is based on inclusive culture of collaboration across artistic and academic disciplines, embracing the Rutgers community’s diversity and demonstrating its rich cultural potential – telling the Rutgers Newark story through performances, research, and learning.

The orchestra members perform on traditional instruments such as oud, ney, tanbur, lute, percussion (bendir, riqq, darbukkah), santur, qanun, saz, baglama, rebab, as well as violin, clarinet, cello, viola, double bass, and other instruments tuned to modal scales. The repertoire includes instrumental and vocal pieces, often sung in a variety of languages reflecting the diversity of cultures in the region: Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Armenian, Greek, Kurdish, Assyrian, and Ladino. The orchestra investigates the touching points and historical overlap with other musical traditions, including South Asian, Spanish, Portuguese, Central Asian, and Eastern European, and engages them in innovative cross-cultural performance and artistic explorations. Working with melody, rhythm, poetry, and structure of modal music, the participants perform the compositions and improvisations drawing attention to the distinct cultural elements as the starting point in a re-imagined environment of twenty first century’s global synthesis.
The Middle East Music Orchestra promotes interaction with the greater Newark community through performances at Rutgers-Newark and citywide, as well as participation open to university and community members.

The RU-N Middle East Music Orchestra director, Ahmet Erdogdular is renowned for his sophisticated singing style and is the sole surviving performer of some of the classical forms of the Ottoman classical tradition. The New York Times deemed his voice “voluptuous and pliable” and his program “intoxicating.” Starting music at an early age, Erdogdular completed his bachelors and master’s degrees in Turkish Classical Music at the Istanbul Technical University State Conservatory, and is a doctoral candidate in Music at the Istanbul University School of Divinity. Ahmet Erdogdular is the president and artistic director of Makam New York, Inc., a non-profit organization for Turkish classical music and arts, and founder of the Annual Turkish Music Institute Workshop. He plays tanbur, lute, oud, and percussion.