While traditional Middle Eastern music is still fairly obscure in this country, there are a few dedicated musicians striving to introduce the United States to a musical tradition that goes back several centuries. The Bloomington-based Middle Eastern music group Salaam consists of such musicians, who have educated and entertained the area for the past eight years. At 7 p.m. Saturday, Salaam will take center stage as part of the third annual Middle Eastern Gala. Saturday's musical festivities will take place at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre, 114 E. Kirkwood Ave. \nSalaam formed in 1993 because of a few admirers of Middle Eastern music.\n"We love to entertain but we also strive to educate with our music," viola player Dena Moore, who is one of the original members, said. "Music is an excellent way to get people interested in a culture."\nThe group has gone through several changes during the past eight years, and it has developed into a Middle Eastern musical phenomenon.\n"There is something phenomenal about Salaam," pianist Hakan Ali Toker, from Turkey, said. "For the first time, you have Americans playing the music of my country. This is absolutely amazing." \nThe evening's music is also meant to celebrate the band's third CD release. The new CD is titled Leylat Salaam, and much of the music from this CD will be played at the concert.\nSaturday's concert will be a mixture of sights, sounds and smells. Dance pieces will be presented by the Turkish Student Association's Folk Dance Troupe and guest dancer graduate student Katya Faris. Singers include Imed Nsiri and Hakan Toker, with Palestinian flute music by Raja Hanania and Egyptian dance by the Blue Nile Dance Troupe.\nMusical presentations will all be Middle Eastern tunes, some of which will be accompanied by song and dance. Various traditional Middle Eastern instruments will be featured, including Victor Santoro on the oud (a predecessor to the flute); Joe Donnelly on the nay (an Arabic flute); Megan Weeder on the kemenche (a spike filddle); and Toker on the qanun, a stringed instrument.\nThe evening will also include Lebanese Dabke dance lessons with dance expert Laela Rahksha and Middle Eastern delicacies prepared by Dena Moore. \n"The audience will be transported to the Middle East," Moore said. "The exquisite sights, sounds and smells will immerse the audience into this unique culture."\nTickets are $10 at the door and $9 in advance. They are $7 for students and seniors and $2 for children.
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