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A Stirring Journey through Arabic, Mediterranean and Balkan Music

By Ziga Pirnat

Artists from the Middle East, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean performed with students from around the world in the annual Middle Eastern Festival on March 12.

The Berklee Performance Center concert, titled Flamenco Today: A Journey through Andalusia, featured assistant professor and festival founder Christiane Karam, as well as Javier Limón, artistic director of Berklee in Valencia's Mediterranean Music Institute and a multi-Grammy and Latin Grammy–winning producer and composer.

The event presented flamenco music—from its Andalusian roots to contemporary trends—and explored the connections between flamenco, Arabic, Mediterranean, and Balkan music, also reflecting the journey gypsies took from India to the Mediterranean. The program consisted of traditional and contemporary pieces, original arrangements created by the ensemble—notably Moira Lo Bianco and Juan Pérez Rodríguez—and classics by flamenco masters Paco de Lucía and Pepe de Lucía. The concert was also a tribute to the music of Enrique Morente, who is known for blending flamenco with other styles.

After a mesmerizing three-hour spectacle that took the audience for a ride through seguiriya, Andalusian sasla, Balkan suite, Mediterranean soundscape, tango flamenco, peroche, and buleria, the performers received standing ovations.

Performers included Berklee's flamenco and Balkan vocal ensembles—both primarily women's choruses—and the Middle Eastern Fusion Ensemble, featuring student and alumni instrumentalists. Special appearances included the internationally acclaimed flamenco singer Pepe de Lucía, flamenco dancer Nino de los Reyes, astounding flamenco singer Genara Cortés, Berklee alumna and flamenco pianist Ariadna Castellanos, and Berklee student Sissy Castrogiovanni, who had flown from the Valencia campus for the show.

Castrogiovanni is part of the first group of global studies students from Berklee’s Boston campus to spend a semester at the college’s new campus in Valencia.

In remarks he made to the audience, Javier Limón emphasized the importance of Berklee’s campus in Valencia as one of the global centers of Mediterranean music.

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