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"Listen to the reed, how it complains and tells a tale of separation pains. Ever since I was cut from the reed bed, my lament has caused man and woman to moan. I want a bosom torn my separation, to explain the pain of longing. Everyone who is far from his source longs for the time of being united with it once more"-Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi
I am the Nayati (Nay player) for the Seattle based Traditional Arabic Music Ensemble - House of Tarab. Visit our website houseoftarab.com.
The group consists of 6 members: Stephen Elaimy (oud), David McGrath (nay), Sallah Ali (violin), Andy Zadronzy (bass), Erik Brown (tablah), & Jane Hall (riqq). This type of ensemble is called a 'Tahkt' in the Arab world. The word Tarab refers to the state of ectasy one experiences while either listening to or performing great music. We are all close friends and are very dedicated to studying this art & often feel a sense of Tarab during our performances.
Around 9yrs ago I was living with Ethnomusicology students from the UW. It was through them that I was introduced to the nay. It was the sound of the nay, the Arabic music scales (maqam), and the intricate melodies that I fell in love with.
It took several years to be able to feel confident playing the nay. It is an incredibly difficult instrument to play, which is probably why not many people attempt it. The bi-labial ambiture (position of the lips while blowing) is unique. I studied mostly on my own, with only a few opportunities to learn from teachers including: Dr. Scott Marcus (Dept. Ethnomusicology Santa Barbara, CA), Omar Faruk Tekbilek (Medicino Music & Dance Camp) & maqam lessons w/ Walid Farhoud (Palestinian singer & Kanun player).
With the close bond I developed with other founding members Stephen Elaimy & Jane Hall, an ensemble formed & grew to add more members including Sallah Ali & Erik Brown. We all have a great love and appreciation for Arabic music & culture, as well as the special friendship each of us shares.
Though I am know for my talent performing with House of Tarab, I come from a long lineage of Traditional Irish Musicians, some of whom include my cousin Joe Cooley, a world renown composer and founder of several schools of Traditional Irish Music, my maternal grandmother an Irish fiddle player, my paternal grandfather who was a guitar teacher & banjo player, and my own mother Rosemary McGrath, winner of the Feis Ceoil (All Ireland Music Competitions) in 1958 for singing in both Irish & English languages.
My music education began when I was 7yrs old in Boston, Ma, playing cello and then clarinet in grade school. I sang in several choirs and choral groups in church and school. Later, I inherited my grandfather’s guitar and played & sang popular folk music throughout college.
After college I moved to Seattle, there I expanded my love of world music studying Afro-Cuban & West African percussion and singing. My teachers included Jeffery Mayo (a student of Armando Peraza – Santana), Chata Addy (Master drummer from Ghana), and Mohammed Shaibu (Master drummer of the Talking Drum). I performed with these teachers regularly for many years playing in all the major nightclubs in Seattle and throughout the NW.
I am a gardener by trade, designing custom residential landscapes & co-owning a small landscape installation company in WA state. I find that horticulture & music go quite well together. Picture spending hours listening to classic recordings of Oum Kalthoum while performing intricate pruning on a Japanese Maple... it's wonderful.
I hope our ensemble continues for many years to come, it's one of the most important parts of my life and I love it.
I continue to be involved in Irish culture, music & dancing and enjoy sharing my rich culture in turn with my friends.