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Where Rivers Meet

Songs and Stories from Masters of Arabic Music

Along the banks of a river, people wash clothes, sing songs, and tell stories. Spices, fabrics, and melodies are carried downstream, and villages are woven together by the current. The Shatt Al-Arab, the Nile, and the Jordan converge at Lake Michigan as Chicago Folklore Ensembles explores the music and stories of master musicians from Iraq, Egypt, and Palestine.

Where Rivers Meet was two-hour show of traditional music from the Middle East and moving personal stories of immigrant musicians. String ensemble and storyteller Anita Darwish accompanied master musicians from Iraq, Egypt, and Palestine, sharing melodies and memories passed down in song and story. (View full performance.)

We gathered the material for this show in lessons and interviews with each master musician. The narration is based on their own words, and we learned the music under their guidance.

Chicago Folklore Ensemble premiered Where Rivers Meet in 2017 at Evanston Public Library and Skokie Public Library, and also performed it at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Where Rivers Meet features and brings together four of Chicago’s great musicians from the Middle East:

  • Amro Hosny Helmy, oud player, singer, and composer from Cairo, Egypt
  • Mary Hazboun, singer from Bethlehem, Palestine
  • Edward Hanna, percussionist from Basra, Iraq
  • Baha’a Abu-Taha, singer and oud player from Jaffa, Palestine