When it comes to the study of music — the history of it, the performing of it, or the psychology of it — Elias Kesrouani is among the world’s elite. Not only has he mastered the oud, an ancient Mesopotamian instrument in the lute family, he’s also an expert in the Syriac, Arabic, and Lebanese music he performs.
A resident of Lebanon who is a visiting professor at Yale University, Kesrouani will share some of his musical talents in a Saturday evening concert at the Lebanon American Club in Danbury. The performance will follow a fundraising dinner for longtime club member Lou Basher and his daughter, Cecilia David Basher, both of whom are convalescing in the hospital.
The Lebanon-American Club is at 22 West St. in Danbury and the buffet dinner will be served from 6 to 8 p.m., followed by the concert from 8 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $25 and cover the cost of the entire evening. Kesrouani will be playing ancient Syriac music as well as more modern Arabic and Lebanese music.
“First I will play Syriac music and show the relation between the Syriac music (as it was originally) and the Lebanese and the Arabic music (as it evolved),” he said. “I will also sing and play in Arabic. There will be four pieces that will be accompanied by piano to show that you can use modern instruments (to play this music).” Pianist Matthew Taylor will accompany Kesrouani.
The Syriac music Kesrouani will perform is from Mesopotamia in the third and fourth centuries. Mesopotamia refers to the region now occupied by part of modern Iraq. Kesrouani emphasizes that this music still exists because it has been passed down, just like traditions and customs are passed down in any culture from generation to generation.
Richard S. Jowdy, vice president of the Lebanon American Club, said Kesrouani is quite famous throughout the Middle East, and has given concerts everywhere, from Greece and Egypt to Kuwait, Spain, Jordan and Italy, among other places.
“We are happy to be able to bring this culture and entertainment to our members and the public, to give them a better understanding of the beautiful Lebanese heritage through music that we inherited from our ancestors …” said Jowdy.
Kesrouani holds a Ph.D. in musicology, which is the scholarly study of music. When asked about the instrument he will be playing Saturday, he instantly gave a detailed, textbook description of its history. He explained that it originated from an instrument in Mesopotamia that was brought by the Arabs to Spain. From this instrument came the oud, a pear-shaped, fretless, guitarlike instrument.
In addition to his aforementioned expertise, Kesrouani speaks five languages and earned master’s degrees in musicology and philosophy. He is also the founder of a discipline within the field of musicology, called musimedialogy. This new program studies musicological education in regard to advertising, telecommunications and computer techniques.
Kesrouani’s studies and teachings have allowed him to travel the world. He has been to 65 countries, and to several more than once. When asked about his most memorable trip, he said it would be impossible to pick just one.
Not only does he play and teach about the history of music, Kesrouani also founded the Ensemble Mesopotamia, a group which plays music much like what he will be performing Saturday.