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'Tabla for Two' returns to Mercyhurst Nov. 6

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The mesmerizing music of Tabla for Two returns to Mercyhurst University on Monday, Nov. 6, as part of the Roche Guest Artist Series.

Tabla for Two – Erie native Abigail Adams Greenway and her teacher, Masood Omari – drew a packed house for their first appearance here in 2014. They’ll be joined this year by Russian dancer Sofya Savkina. Their recital begins at 8 p.m. in Walker Recital Hall and is free and open to the public through the generosity of the Terry and Margaret M. Roche Family.

Tabla are highly complex percussion instruments that carry the beat of Eastern classical music. Omari, a native of Afghanistan, is a tabla master in the Punjab lineage and has been playing tabla for 25 years. He is also proficient on the dholak and harmonium and is a talented singer.

Greenway, who now lives in the Washington, D.C. area, went from a career in visual arts to a career in music once she met Omari and has devoted the past five years to the intense study and practice of tabla music.

Tabla for Two performs traditional and classical music from Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Iran, as well as Omari’s own compositions, which blend classical Eastern beats with Western style, a fusion of East and West that’s mirrored in their own partnership.

The tabla consists of two upright drums covered with leather membranes, each with a distinctive black circle in the center created by applying layers of tuning paste. They are played with the fingers and the heel of the hand. Each drumstroke can be expressed as a syllable, creating an extensive vocabulary of sounds known as “tabla talk.”

In the years since their last Erie visit, Tabla for Two has greatly expanded its performance schedule, including numerous appearances at the Washington Embassies of Afghanistan and Bangladesh, as well as at the Freer Gallery of Asian Art at the Smithsonian, the Textile Museum at George Washington University, the Phillips Collection of modern art in Washington, and the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.

Greenway says, “Our goal is to keep this beautiful music alive, to preserve it, and our mission statement is ‘Playing for Peace.’”

While in Erie, Tabla for Two will also present a masterclass for Mercyhurst music students on Tuesday, Nov. 7, from 12:45 to 1:45 p.m. in Walker Recital Hall. The session is also free and open to the public.

To learn more about Tabla for Two, and view video clips of performances, visit tablafortwo.com. For information about their Erie concert, call 814-824-2394.