Listen to The Penn Arab Music Ensemble Trio’s live direct-to-acetate recording for the 78 project

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The Penn Arab Music Ensemble Trio

Inspired by ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax, who is best known for his field recordings of folk music throughout the 1900’s, The 78 Project travels the globe to film and record music in various spaces and environments. Equipped with “just one microphone, one authentic 1930’s Presto direct-to-acetate disk recorder, and one blank lacquer disc, musicians are given one take to cut a record anywhere they choose,” according to the organization’s website. Previously, the project made it’s way to Philadelphia to record Joe Jack Talcum in 2015.

On the latest chapter of the project, The 78 Project returned to Philadelphia to record the Penn Arab Music Ensemble Trio. Originally recorded in 2016 at the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Music, The 78 Project released its latest installment to the world earlier this month. The trio of Hanna Khoury, Hafez Kotain, and Kinan Abou-afach performed two tracks live to fit the two sides of the acetate. The trio performed ancient muwashshah “Lamma Bada Yatathanna” on side A and “El Helwa Di” on side B.

Performing the first piece with time in mind, the trio speeds up the tempo at the end of the song as the needle neared the center of the acetate. “El Helwa Di” is a song by Egyptian composer Sayed Darwish that the trio recorded to the B-side of the acetate. The cracking and imperfections of the recording are apparent on both tracks, but that extra quality reminds the listener the setting and circumstances of the original recording.

Listen to both recordings on The 78 Project’s website here. 

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