The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Al-Bustan Arab Music Ensemble, fall 2015. Photo courtesy of Al-Bustan.
The seeds of Arab music and culture are being sown throughout the Philadelphia community thanks to Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, a Knight Arts grantee. Through a variety of programs–both performance and education-based–Al-Bustan offers structured exposure to the language, art, music, dance, literature and natural environment of the Arab world.
In Arabic, ‘Al-Bustan’ means ‘The Garden,’ and this image serves as an apt metaphor for the programming of this multifaceted organization, whose next cycle of weekly classes begins on Jan. 14. By promoting cross-cultural understanding among adults and youth from a wide range of backgrounds, Al-Bustan supports the cultivation of Arab American cultural identity through many channels of creativity and communication.
With core values that focus on the importance of the Arabic language, as well as of artistic and musical expression, Al-Bustan offers those of Arab heritage living in the United States an opportunity to more deeply connect with and explore their ethnic identity. For those unfamiliar with the bountiful culture of our Arabic neighbors, Al-Bustan serves as a vehicle for learning about and participating in a rich historical tradition.
Seen by the group as a pathway to mutual respect, the program also helps to constructively counter prejudice and discrimination through cultural affirmation. By involving youth program participants, as well as professional artists, in its classes, Al-Bustan provides opportunities to experience and interact with diverse trends and practices from Arab culture worldwide. This opportunity for the community at large is a means to explore both historical and contemporary Arabic life, and effectively helps to resist prevalent forms of institutional discrimination in education, media and political discussions.
Youth development is a key element of Al-Bustan’s outreach initiative, as are community partnerships that allow open dialogue between established organizations that support the mission and share the core values of Al-Bustan.
Registration is now open for Al-Bustan’s Arab Music Ensembles spring 2016 season–a 15-week program that begins Jan. 14. Violin virtuoso Hanna Khoury, percussionist Hafez Kotain and cellist/maqam theory specialist Kinan Abou-Afach will lead classes at the University of Pennsylvania on Thursday evenings during the spring cycle.