The Andalusian Orchestra Jerusalem (Courtesy Arabesque Acre Festival 2019) (Courtesy Arabesque Acre Festival 2019)
The Andalusian Orchestra Jerusalem

The Arabesque Festival will host renowned Israeli and international artists in the Crusader fortress in Acre, with opening night featuring Arab and ultra-orthodox Jewish musicians.

By United with Israel Staff

Following rave reviews last year, the second annual International Festival of Classical and Andalusian Arabic Music will be held in the Crusader fortress in Old Acre (Akko) and throughout the city.

The festival’s artistic director, Maestro Tom Cohen, is an internationally renowned musician who first introduced Arabic-Andalusian music to Israel.

Cohen composed the music for the successful Israeli series “Zagury Imperia,” which became an anthem for soccer games in Israel.

He also produced albums and performances for the biggest names in Israeli music, including Ninet Tayeb, Omer Adam, Berry Sakharof, Ehud Banai and Dudu Tessa.

Born and raised in Beersheba to an Iraqi father and a mother of Polish origin, Cohen is the musical director and conductor of the Jerusalem East and West Orchestra. However, Israel is only one of four countries where he works.

In Brussels, where he lives with his Lebanese-born wife and their son, he is the musical director and conductor of an orchestra called MED, short for the Mediterranean.

In Montreal, he founded and manages an Andalusian band orchestra, consisting of Canadian musicians with Western classical training.

Finally, he is the conductor and co-director of an orchestra that operates in France and is based on Algerian musicians.

Another orchestra, established at the personal request of the King of Morocco, is based in that country.

“This year we will all celebrate together – the residents of the city of Acre along with all the residents of the country and dear guests from abroad – the culture and the traditions shared by all of us and all the neighbors around us, a celebration that is so required to take place in this beautiful and historic city,” Cohen said.

Among those to appear on stage during the five-day event are Israeli celebrities Miri Mesika, Sarit Hadad, Raymond Abecassis, Firqat El Nour Orchestra, Violet Salameh and others. Opening night features the Firqat El Nour orchestra, which consists of Arab and ultra-Orthodox Jewishmusicians.

Street Performances, Children’s Class, Shabbat Program

The festival will also include a master class for the children of the municipal conservatory in Acre with international kamancheh artist Elad Levy, senior violinist Fadel Manna and cellist Mayo Shviro.

A symposium, titled “Music and a Shared Culture,” will be held under Cohen’s guidance with the participation of Profs. Taysir Elias, Joseph Sheetrit and Paul Dahan.

Every evening for the duration of the festival, there will be street performances of authentic Berber music from Marrakesh, and on Saturday, a magnificent Shabbat program with prayers and Jewish liturgical poems will be held in various synagogues in the city.

“We are proud to host the festival for the second year in a row, which already has become a tradition for our city,” stated Shimon Lankri, mayor of Acre and chairman of the Arabesque Festival. “Acre is a symbol of coexistence, hence deserves the most, to be the place that presents the rich contribution of classical Arab and Andalusian music to Israeli culture.”

‘Sense of Brotherhood’

“The sounds that will be performed in Acre during the five days of the festival, are the result of a unique artistic work, weaving its way through all the sounds of Arab and Andalusian music into one big melody that can only exist in Acre,” said festival director Albert Ben Chelouche.

“We hope that this celebration will continue to unite people and contribute to the sense of brotherhood, because this is the only choice,” he added.

The 2019 Arabesque festival runs Tuesday through Saturday, June 11-15.