THE ARAB cultural organization Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture presents a free performance tonight that celebrates poetry and music. First up is the Philadelphia Arab Music Ensemble, a community group that performs traditional folk and classical music from Arabic cultures. Melodies from lutelike instruments such as the oud inspire the urge to dance. Arabic vocalists are subdued and highly controlled. The program includes compositions by "Oud King" Farid Alatrash and Mohammad Abdel Wahab, whose music is delicate and passionate.
Palestinian-American poet Suheir Hammad complements the music. Hammad, author of Breaking Poems and a recipient of a 2009 American Book Award, was born in Amman, Jordan, and lives in New York. She immigrated to America with her parents when she was 5. Her musical and theatrical poetry performances (you may have seen her on HBO's "Def Jam") explore a range of topics, from the 9/11 attacks to her Palestinian heritage to the act of writing itself. (Search her name on YouTube and you'll find a collection of readings that look like music videos.) Hammad will read alongside members of the Philadelphia Arab Music Ensemble for the first time in an intriguing collaboration of art forms.