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Ya Layl plays Mostly Middle Eastern


Saturday Sept 17 8pm, Inside concert

Mostly Middle Eastern

  • Fall 2016: Ya Layl plays "Mostly Middle Eastern," an eclectic program including Arabic, Turkish, Greek, Armenian, Sephardic music. From lively dance tunes to modal improvisations, American standards to Medieval pilgrim songs, Sarah Michael plays her current favorite tunes on the middle eastern zither, accompanied by the astonishing drumming of Peter Maund and the elegant and inventive cello of Suellen Primost. Special guest Niko Bakulich brings the energy only the bass can supply.

  • Sarah Michael, kanun

    Sarah Michael recieved her B.Mus. in music history from San Francisco State University and M. A in composition from Mills College. She has been playing and studying Middle Eastern music for the last twenty years, primarily with the great composer and accordion virtuoso Elias Lammam. She has performed on the kanun with groups including Aswat, Flowers of the Nile, Elias Lammam ensemble, the Mevlevi Mutrib, El Azifoon, and Ya Layl. Prior to that she had an energetic career in Early music, primarily as a viola da gamba player, and as a composer.


  • Peter Maund, percussion
  • A native of San Francisco, Peter Maund studied percussion at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and music, folklore and ethnomusicology at the University of California, Berkeley. A founding member of Ensemble Alcatraz and Alasdair Fraser’s Skyedance, he has performed with early and contemporary music ensembles including Alboka, Anonymous 4, Berkeley Contemporary Chamber Players, Chanticleer, Davka, El Mundo, The Harp Consort, Hesperion XX, Kitka, Los Cenzontles, Musica Pacifica, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Voices of Music, among others. Described by the Glasgow Herald as “the most considerate and imaginative of percussionists” he can be heard on over 50 recordings.


  • Suellen Primost, cello
  • Known for her versatility, Suellen Primost is a seasoned, conservatory trained cellist, composer and recording artist, constantly engaged in multimedia collaborations, classical and world music concerts, theatre and spoken word performances, sound healing and freelance recording projects. An accomplished improviser as well, Suellen performs music spanning many genres: Classical, Celtic, Eastern European, North Indian Classical, Arabic, Latin, Jazz and Ambient. Suellen was principal cellist with The Taos Chamber Orchestra and co-founded Sedona's first "Jazz on the Rocks" Festival. After moving to CA in 2002, she assumed first chair with the Bay Area Chamber Symphony and designed the original score for Herstories "Bone Songs: Echoes of the Unknown Mother." She also served 10 years as Music Director for Artship Ensemble, a premier San Francisco's dance theatre and created music for 11 Artship productions. Her playing has been featured on numerous CD's and in 3 film scores. Suellen currently performs with Spiral Dance Chamber Jazz, The Neshamah Duo, Ya Layl and The Espiritu Ensembles.


  • Niko Bakulich, bass
  • A native of San Francisco, Niko Bakulich is a composer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist. He performs his own original material, and has composed music for modern dance and film. He is an accomplished arranger and producer of recordings, and is technically a professional conch player. He has performed with paperthreat, Lucre, and Hungry March Band. He publishes new original music at nikobakulich.com.


    Check out this link for a sample tune....

    Ya Layl



    Duo Trios - Bal du Kor (African) & Brisas do Brazil



    Saturday October 8th 8pm, Inside concert










    Bal du Kor


  • Three veteran performers/composers/recording artists join forces to create an enchanting fusion of traditional and original West African melodies and rhythms.
  • Michael Smolens -- balafon, djun-djuns, shakers, bell, dumbek, tambourine, alto flute, melodica, vocals

    Brian Rice -- djembe, dun-dun, udu, shekere, bell, pandeiro, congas, cajon, dumbek, riqq, ocean drum, vocals

    Daniel Berkman -- kora, djembe, bell, tambourine, ukulele, vocals

  • The heart of this dynamic and captivating ensemble are the indigenous instruments balafon (marimba), dun-dun (talking drum), and kora (harp), uniquely combined with alto flute, ukulele, melodica, djembe, djun-djuns, shekere, bells, tambourine, and vocals.

  • The band's emotional range spans from the delicate and longing to the inspiring and ecstatic, while their collective cosmopolitan backgrounds give birth to unpredictable musical excursions.

  • Michael Smolens
  • Michael has been jokingly diagnosed with A.B.L.S. (Acquired Band Leader Syndrome), leading four ensembles and co-leading two others. They include the mini-big band KRIYA Octet, a 9-person vocal MIRABAI ENSEMBLE, the electro-acoustic earPlay Jazzquintet, the West-African acoustic fusion trio Bal du Kor, the New American Songbook Project, and the Jewish music duo THE BATKAS featuring vocalist Biaja Solomon.

    Whereas all of these other groups are highly arranged, Bal du Kor is primarily improvised, fusing his love for free improvisation (four CDs of free duos) with his fascination for West-African music. Though employing different instrumental colors in one ensemble is typical, this is the only ensemble that works equally well with young children as well as adults.

  • Brian Rice
  • Brian is one of the most in-demand percussionists in Northern California and collaborates with Michael Smolens in two other ensembles—the mini-big band KRIYA Octet and the electro-acoustic earPlay Jazzquintet. Brian's style range is vast, extending from jazz, West-African, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and North Indian, to various shades of pop, to contemporary classical and experimental music. The range of instruments he plays reflectshis diversity—West-African djembe, dun-dun, shakeree, bells; Latin congas and panderio; North Indian tablas; Middle-Eastern dumbek, and modern drum set.

    Some of the artists that he has performed with are The Paul Winter Consort, Donald Byrd, Sonando, Balafon Marimba Ensemble, and Wake The Dead. He is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in both percussion performance and ethnomusicology and has studied with Regino Jimenez, Jesus Alfonso and Enrique Mesa from Cuba and Jorge Alabe from Brazil.

  • Daniel Berkman
  • Daniel is a composer, multi-instrumentalist (keyboard, guitar, percussion, drum set), vocalist, electronic musician, RTFM recording artist, and innovator on the kora (a 21-stringed harp from West Africa). Upon finding this ancient jewel in 1996, Daniel wasted no time in unearthing the kora's compositional and sonic potential, first by exploring its rich heritage of traditional playing techniques and repertoire, then by extending its electronic possibilities through devices such as the Whammy Pedal and the Oberheim Echoplex. His first three CDs, "Heartstrings", "Feverdreams," and "Headlands" While touring West-Africa (Senegal, Gambia and Mali) Daniel also studied kora, djembe and ngoni with various masters there. The result is his latest work, "Calabashmoon" , a collection of crafty and poignant kora pieces woven into a tapestry of recorded samples and impressions of that region. Daniel has recently added the gravikord (a 21-stringed stainless steel electric kora) to his arsenal of instruments which he manipulates, loops and transfigures with laptop, looping software, and other devices. His brand new CD "Tape" under the moniker "Colfax" is now available on iTunes and Amazon.

    He is an original member of Bal du Kor and has also collaborated with Michael Smolens in various duo and large ensemble performances as well.

    Check out this link for sample tunes....


    Bal du Kor

    Brisas do Brasil


  • Brisas do Brasil creates an exciting and tropical environment, serving up intricate original arrangements of Bossa Nova and Samba, refreshing the listener with its constantly shifting textures. The trio features sublime compositions by the Brazilian master Antonio Carlos Jobim (The Girl From Ipanema, Corcovado, Desafinado), along with gems by Sergio Mendez, Toninho Horta, Milton Nascimento, Edu Lubo, Ivan Lins, and Aecio Flavio, plus evocative original works.

  • Vocalist Mary D'Orazi effortlessly traverses between English and Portuguese, often within the same song.

  • Percussionist Greg German combines traditional Brazilian and jazz percussion with verve and romantic sweetness.

  • Keyboardist/arranger Michael Smolens magically imitates a nylon-string guitar and acoustic bass with uncanny accuracy while adding alto flute, melodica, and voice to the mix.

    Check out this link for sample tunes....


    Brisas do Brasil





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