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Helm offers an evening of Middle Eastern music, dance in Nevada City

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Who: Paul Emery presents Nevada City Live with An Evening of Traditional Middle Eastern Music and Dance with special guests Helm

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 18

Where: Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad St., Nevada City

Tickets: $20

Online at http://www.paulemerymusic.com, or in person at BriarPatch Co-op, 290 Sierra College Dr., Grass Valley, or Yabobo, 107 N Pine St., Nevada City

This Saturday, audiences will journey to the exotic lands of Egypt, Turkey, North Africa and the Balkans for An Evening of Traditional Middle Eastern Music and Dance, with special guests Helm, co-presented by Paul Emery, Sage Hoban and Cathy McCain, at the Nevada Theatre.

The international Bay Area-based ensemble Helm, will perform music reflective of the traditions of the Middle East through classical, folkloric and original compositions. Joining them on stage is guest singer Isabel Tercero and acclaimed dance troupe’s Venus Serpentina, Shekina Sehar, Sparrow and Bee, and Damkianna Dance Company.

As with many cultures, dance and music go hand in hand in Middle Eastern music.



The dancer physically embodies the music, as different body parts move to different complex rhythms. The dancer’s job is to increase the audience’s awareness of the music, while at the same time expressing the emotions behind it. When it all works together, Middle Eastern music and dance are virtually inseparable art forms — the music drives the dance, while the dancer simultaneously influences the musicians. The audience is the final piece of the show, adding the sense of celebration and spontaneity that brings the performance to life.

“The first time I saw authentic traditional Middle Eastern music and dance, I was hooked,” says Hoban. “I was inspired by the beauty of the dance and found the music to be enchanting.”




Forty years later Hoban is still dancing and organizing special showcases for the community to learn from and enjoy. In 2004, 2005 and 2007 she worked with Emery to bring a similar show with Helm to the Center for the Arts. When Emery asked Hoban to organize the show specific for the Nevada City Live concert series at the historic Nevada Theatre, she couldn’t say no.

Helm features Ling Shien Bell on Arabic woodwinds, accordion, and vocals, Larry Klein on oud and assorted string instruments, and special guest musicians Paul Anderson on oud and Lani Rhoades on qanan. Helm’s unique style is far-reaching and diverse, providing a rich platform for expression.

It is a rare opportunity to see and hear these exotic and ancient instruments. The oud is a pear-shaped lute that traditionally had four strings, although current instruments have up to six courses consisting of one or two strings each. Historically, the oldest pictorial record of the oud dates back over 5000 years ago. The qanan has about 26 triple-string courses, plucked with a piece of horn. The musician has the freedom to alter the pitch of individual courses from a quarter to a whole step by adjusting metal levers. The complex rhythms of this music are often played on many simple percussion instruments. The riq (a type of tambourine) and finger cymbals add a higher rhythmic line to rhythm laid down with sticks, clappers, and other drums. An instrument native to Egypt, Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon, the doumbek (or tombak), is a drum made of ceramic clay, with a goatskin head glued to the body.

Helm will perform two forty-minute sets. Tercero will sing “Rumba Argelina”. The band and dancers have been rehearsing, building sets, and designing elaborate costumes for over six months in preparation for this weekend’s performance.

“Middle Eastern dance is a beautiful ancient dance that touches people’s soul, filling them with love and compassion,” says Hoban. “It’s magical.”


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