The Kennedy Center

The Genesis World Music Ensemble


Continuing in Genesis at the Crossroads’ signature style of bridging cultures in conflict through the arts, Founder & Executive Director, Wendy Sternberg sought to pair two artists unbeknownst to one another, from the Moslem and Jewish communities somewhere in the world.  Having been introduced to Haj Youness through Kader Rhanime last year, Youness was a logical choice for the Moslem virtuoso, for one, because of his renowned talent, and two, because Genesis’ concert last August was compromised by an inability to secure a visa for him to enter the US.  For this extraordinary pairing, Jewish American (Greek-born) Alberto Mizrahi was chosen for his brilliant range of talent (also an unparalleled virtuoso,) and his connection to the Mediterranean by birth, and by personal exploration in vocal music. He was not only already a performing artist with Genesis twice over (in 2000 & 2005,) but also was the Cantor of Sternberg’s synagogue, where she belonged for 14 years.  Howard Levy, with whom Genesis has loved working in the past (2000, 2004 & 2005,) who brings to the table an inimitable musicianship, not to mention quarter tones on a harmonica, became next in line as Genesis’ featured guest artist.

Following this, came the seemingly daunting task of hand picking musicians from as wide a range of cultural backgrounds that could, at once, bring a uniqueness to go beyond fusion music to a whole new sound, yet still blend together.  Iranian guitarist, Shahin Shahida, the very first headliner for our Genesis debut program in 2000, (also performed in 2005) came on board and brought with him his colleague, Humayun Khan, representing Afghanistan and its rich musical heritage, but also that of Indian masters.  Shahida had also collaborated with Ethiopian Mooneed Jewad, who Sternberg suggested be brought into the fold to round out the other part of Africa and its ethnic traditions.   Kader brought his saxophone, Mohcine, his Brother Anis, and Hicham… and they brought their respective instruments... and, for the last eight months, we already have been making history.  Kader Rhanime took the role of Artistic Director, shuttling back and forth to DC, Chicago and Casablanca as our musical envoy, and Wendy Sternberg, took the Executive Producer role. 

Below you will find one of the most unique collections of musicians ever found together, with a range of talent as wide as it is wonderful - all committed to bridging humankind through art and serving up an engaging model for others to follow. It is the art of their forefathers and mothers centuries old, the stirring sounds of their childhoods, and the ethnic music of their people.  They have not all met one another in person, although they have shared their music, creative genius and their hearts with the greatest of 21st century technology.  (Their biographies are below.)

The story of their coming together, and the mysterious connections that bind us, will be told for years to come…especially now, as we tour our own very own Genesis ensemble around the world, and weave in other talent, along the mystical and serendipitous way…


Genesis at the Crossroads is humbly honored to have Maitre Said El Azizi El Alaoui compose our opening piece, Soundwaves Travel.  The core of this piece is taken from Haj Youness’ signature opening concerto, a rendering of Aranjuez, brilliantly composed by him at the suggestion of the late King of Morocco to blend Aranjuez, con tu amor with a Middle Eastern quarter-toned scale.  Over time, this concerto became Youness’ signature piece, governed solely by his virtuosity and particular state of mind at the time of each concert, rendering it a truly original work each time he performed it.   Youness normally plays it as a solo, but for our Genesis World Music Ensemble, he has re-configured it to showcase the collective talents of our ensemble musicians. 

A remarkably collaborative effort, with El Alaoui taking the lead, Youness and Kader Rhanime suggested additional movements for the opening and closing segments, as well as arrangements in the middle sections to be used as a framework.  El Alaoui then created and recorded this musical scaffold. In studio, Youness built upon it and recorded the oud parts.  Organically, this piece took shape as Rhanime rearranged the musical layering to accommodate and highlight the individual talents of our other nine ensemble members. Cross-culturally, Mizrahi and Youness take the lead as headliners, peppered with Howard Levy’s jazz solo line.  After the first movement, the introduction, Youness hands Aranjuez over to Mizrahi and Levy, musically retreating before Mizrahi again, deftly hands it back for the next Arabic/Spanish-styled movement.  The closing movement, in Tzigane style, is taken from Oum Kelthoum, the Egyptian Diva who passed away in the late 70’s.  Mizrahi sings Aranjuez while Levy plays the original classical chart for it. 

The Concierto de Aranjuez was inspired and written for the gardens of the Palacio Real de Aranjuez, attempting to take the listener to sounds of nature in another place and time.  According to the composer, the first movement is animated by a rhythmic spirit and vigor, interrupting its relentless pace.  The second movement represents a dialogue between guitar and solo instruments, paying homage to Genesis’ mission of creating dialogue and bridging cultures through artistic expression. 

Although the concerto captures the essence of the gardens, some say it was partly, especially in the second movement, inspired by the bombing of Guernica in 1937.  Once again, the piece references the idea that artistic beauty not only can arise from tragedy, but also has the ability to transport us to a transformed place, a core component of Genesis’ organizational concept and work. The musically-evoked fragrance of magnolias, singing of the birds and the sound of the fountains provide an idyllic vision for the attentive listener –the highest attainable state we can all reach through cross-cultural collaboration and mutual understanding.


Our musical program was skillfully designed to take our audience on a world tour with an ease that transcends otherwise imposing and often inaccessible or misunderstood genres.

The ensemble will take its audience on a trip of unsurpassed spirituality by interpreting a passionate rendition of a poem by Maulana Jalal Al-Din Rumi, the 13th century Persian mystic, now, one of the best selling poets in America, world-renowned for his mystical and ecstatic verses. Known as the Axis of Love, he speaks directly into his audiences hearts.

Humayun Khan will sing Masnavi, Listen to the Sound of the Reed, which immediately casts a hypnotic spell over the listener.  Its rich blend of musical poetry, slowly but masterfully, takes our listeners on a journey into love’s soul, penetrating their subconscious.

Having covered American Jazz, European Classical & Arabic Maqam, as well as Afghani qawwali, our musical world tour would be remiss without an exploration into the artistic landscape that colored so much of Africa. We will retrace the roots of Blues and Jazz back to their origins in sub-Saharan Africa and the music of Gnaoua, which is both a prayer and a celebration of life, which Genesis has creatively coupled with the expressive tones of Rai music.     

Mizrahi (whose very name, not coincidentally, points Eastward) has supplied us with a rich tapestry of “Eastern” Jewish music.  Lecha Dodi, a hymn from the Friday evening service welcomes the Sabbath Bride/Queen as she brings us peace and happiness. He composed a new setting based on a Maqam (mode utilized in Middle Eastern music) he heard in Greece.   A dance rhythm, arranged in three sections, some verses in a lower key, some in a higher one, transitions the following sections into a Latin-African beat and harmony, featuring Howard Levy, both on piano and harmonica, as well as the rest of the ensemble in an exciting climax.

Shalom Aleychem is Mizrahi’s arrangement of a tune that has circled his consciousness since the age of five, when his parents took him to Zapeion, the Royal Gardens of Athens, to hear and often sit on the knee of Nikos Gounaris, the pre-eminent troubadour of Greece (from the 20's through the early 60's.)   Inspired by a recent concert tour in Cairo, once again enamored with the people and the culture, Mizrahi wrote a piece entitled, Allah, both compelling and inviting via its invigorating guitar solo entrance.  Specifically for our Genesis program and tour, in the true spirit of Genesis’ model for collaboration, he asked Haj to improvise something on his oud that will evoke the memories of that solo, and thus lead Mizrahi into the first of four verses of this mystical hymn, welcoming the ministering angels of peace.  This is followed by the section Mizrahi composed for the next two verses in rhythmic style, with a subsequent return to the more tranquil and introspective fourth verse in the original melody.  Salaam Aleykum will be interspersed with the Hebrew, Shalom Aleychem, repeatedly as the ending fades into a soft wish for peace; Go in peace, O angels of peace, angels of the Exalted One...

The final two songs will be sung in Ladino, the 14th century Castillian Spanish that is still the vernacular of the Jews who lived in the Iberian peninsula for over 1,000 years until the infamous expulsion of 1492.   The songs will be presented as a medley, going from a lilting melody from Rhodes and Turkey in Una Matica de Ruda, into a driving, powerful 7/8 Ushkadara rhythm from Turkey in the song, La Comida La Manana. 

Dear Audience -  listen and take in the vibrant drum solos!  Between verses, The Genesis World Music Ensemble also invites you to take time listening to each separate improvisation – our representation of the individual voices of humanity.

This program was partially supported by funds from Genesis’ greatest anonymous fans


Greek-born tenor, Alberto Mizrahi, one of the world's leading interpreters of Jewish music, is Hazzan of the historic Anshe Emet Synagogue, Chicago. He has thrilled audiences worldwide in recitals, symphony concerts, and operatic performances. Affectionately dubbed the "Jewish Pavarotti," Mizrahi's repertoire, spanning nine languages, makes his performances unique in the field.  He is featured in the PBS gala USA/Europe televised performance of CANTORS: a Faith in Song, from the Spanish Portuguese Synagogue, Amsterdam, as well as with the legendary jazz pianist, Dave Brubeck, and his quartet, in Gates of Justice, recorded for the Milken Archive.

Mizrahi recently performed KAVANAH: Tradition and Transformation, a seven city Modern Music tour throughout The Netherlands, built around him by the Korzo Theater, The Hague.  He also sang concerts in; Geneva, Switzerland with the Gerard Edery Ensemble, Los Angeles with the Philharmonic (Disney Theater), Tarpon Springs Fine Arts Center, Miami’s Bet Shirah Congregation, Birmingham, Alabama (Temple Beth-El), Temple Israel, NYC with Theo Bikel, Highland Park, NJ, and Ahavath Achim, Atlanta.  Highlights of some more recent performances include  Encino, CA (Cantor Hershel Fox 25th at Valley Beth Shalom,) Omaha, NE (Beth El), Tel Aviv (with YUVAL), Krakow Jewish Festival, Hava Nashira Festival, and the North American Jewish Choral Festival. 

Alberto’s extensive discography includes six CD’s for the Milken Archive on Naxos, and his latest recording projects include Anshe Emet Live, Bikel & Mizrahi:  Our Song, and Alberto’s World.  In October 2007 he will record Mizrahi in Concert with the Menuhin School Orchestra, in London and The Art of the Cantor (orchestra and location – TBA.)

An embarrassment of riches, Mizrahi’s concert highlights include: Neve Shalom Synagogue, Istanbul, Turkey, Krakow Jewish Culture Festival 2006, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, Berkeley JCC Jewish Music Festival, CANTORS WORLD "Koussevitzky Concert," Alice Tully Hall, NY; Spitalfields Festival in London; World Litvak Congress, Vilnius, Lithuania; 60th Anniversary of the Liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto, Lodz, Poland; with the Gerard Edery Ensemble and The Sons of Sepharad, throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe.   Alberto has also sung with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Radio Television Orchestra of Spain, New York Philharmonic, New Jersey Symphony, N.D.R. Symphony, Hanover, Atlanta Symphony, Houston Symphony, Pacific Symphony, L. A. Jewish Symphony,Washington Choral Arts Society at the Kennedy Center, D.C, Lithuanian National Symphony and Sinfonia Warsawia.

Hazzan Mizrahi is an officer of the Cantors Assembly, on the Board of the Zamir Choral Foundation and Advisory Board of Genesis at the Crossroads.   He has performed for some of Genesis at the Crossroad’s programs since 2000.  He lives in Chicago with his wife, Deborah.

From the great halls of the Smithsonian, to the Royal Court of Indonesia, and the Cairo Opera House, Haj Youness, showcased through the strings of his oud, presents both sacred sensitivity and soul-stirring sounds. Born in Casablanca in 1949, Haj Youness is one the most accomplished oud virtuosos, renowned for delighting audiences worldwide.  A disciple of the Turkish scholar, Jamil Bik Tambouri, Youness conducted research that singled him out for his unique instrumental interpretation, supplementing traditional oud music.  In his capacity as Dean of the Casablanca Music Conservatory, Africa's largest conservatory, he shares his talent with young musicians numbering in excess of 5000 international students each year.

His exceptional talent won him the late King Hassan II’s attention and the Golden Luth (Oud) Award in 1983. He was designated with the high honor of Composer at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.  Both the United Nations and the International Royal Academy awarded Youness the 2000 International Peace Award for Culture.  Most recently UNESCO honored him as well.  In 2004, after a mesmerizing concert at the Smithsonian, the Peace Corps' Friends of Morocco and the Washington Club bestowed upon him the title of Moroccan Ambassador for the Arts to the United States of America.
He will collaborate with the others to present works highlighting the Moroccan, Arabic, Judaic and sub-Saharan roots of contemporary Moroccan music in addition to that which is centuries’ old from Andalucia (Southern Spain,) some of which were originally composed by him. Finally he will indulge us with pieces which explore the origins of Flamenco music and that which we commonly ascribe to South America which actually originated out of Andalucia.

Howard Levy is a musician without limits. His musical adventures include journeys into jazz, pop, rock, world music, Latin, classical, folk, blues, country, theater, and film. He has appeared on hundred of CD’s, won a Grammy (1997), won a Joseph Jefferson Award (1986) for Best Original Music for a Play, and has performed many times on American and European television and radio.  Universally acknowledged as the world’s most advanced diatonic harmonica player, Howard developed a fully chromatic style on the standard 10 - hole diatonic harmonica, revolutionizing harmonica playing and taking the instrument into totally new territory. He is also an accomplished pianist and composer, and plays many other instruments as well, including flute, ocarina, mandolin, saxophone, and percussion.

Howard was a founding member of the Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. He toured and recorded two albums with Kenny Loggins, and formed Trio Globo with Eugene Friesen and Glen Velez. Howard has also performed and/or recorded with Dolly Parton, Styx, Bobby McFerrin, Paul Simon, John Prine, Paquito D’Rivera, Ken Nordine, and many others, as well as touring and recording extensively in Europe with artists such as Rabih Abou Khalil and Michael Riessler.  Recent Highlights

In 2003, Howard released a jazz duo cd with Naumberg Award-winning pianist Anthony Molinaro, entitled The Molinaro/Levy Project “Live”. In 2002, he performed “On the Other Side...” (a triple concerto composed for him, a clarinetist and an accordianist) with The Bavarian State Radio Orchestra in Munich, Germany. In 2001, Howard was commissioned by The Illinois Philharmonic to compose a Harmonica Concerto, the first ever written for diatonic harmonica. Since the debut, he has performed it 9 times, with more performances scheduled.  He has performed as a guest artist for Genesis at the Crossroads’ performances since 2000.

Hicham began his musical career at the age of 14 in the capital city of Rabat, Morocco and quickly evolved into one of the most talented keyboard players in the Arab world today.  His love for music lead him to formal music schooling, soon after which, he was hired as the lead keyboard player for Moroccan folk superstar, Jadwane.  For the better part of more than 10 years, together, they went around the world.  Hicham is a session and live soloist that also tours the world with other renowned North African and Middle Eastern artists, performing in venues from Paris’ Bercy and Le Zenith, London’s Alberts’ Hall to the Nartional Building Museum in our nation’s capitol. For the Fabric of Moroccan Life exhibition at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, Hicham played lead keyboard for some of the featured Arab singers and soloists, including, for the finale concerto, accompaniment for Haj Youness himself.  Not only an accomplished performer, but also an established composer, Hicham is often called upon by major music producers to compose original tracks for the hip hop industry.

Mooneeb Jewad, more commonly known as Moon, was born in Nairobi, Kenya, and is of Eritrean/Ethiopian parentage.  His formidable years were spent traveling the globe whilst residing in a multitude of countries, namely Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Kenya, and Ethiopia, to name a few.  In pursuit of higher studies, Moon’s adventure continued to the United States.

Inspired by his Mother’s musical spirit, music became an instant necessity and the sustenance of his life, as well as  that of his siblings.  Afforded the privilege of residing in and absorbing so many cultures, Moon’s compositions and musicianship are truly multifarious to the core, enabling him to partake in everything from Country & Western, to Blues, Jazz fusion, Reggae, Funk, Afro-beat, Arabic and East African styles.  A few if the highlights include performances at the Montreal Jazz Festival, Toronto Jazz Fest, Montego Bay Fest and the Grenada Jazz Fest. 
Originally from Afghanistan, Humayun’s family moved to Washington, DC, following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1980.  Humayun grew up in a culturally-oriented family, an atmosphere rich with traditional music and literature.  He began studying Indian classical music from Shuba Sankaran in 1990, and after receiving an Apprenticeship Grant from the DC Commission of the Arts and Humanities, extended his vocal music studies with her until 1992. He then traveled to Calcutta, India to began formal training in classical vocal music under Ustad Vilayat Khan, considered to be the most influential sitarist of his generation.  Vilayat Khan is credited with the introduction of the gayaki (vocal) style into instrumental music, which brought to the sitar the subtleties and expressiveness of the classical vocal tradition.    In 1995, Humayun began receiving additional guidance from the senior Pakistani artist, Ustad Fateh Ali Khan.  developing his own versatile performance style, ranging from purely classical khayal renditions to a classically oriented presentation of the poetry of great Persian masters, Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi and Hafiz.

With his unique style and mastery of qawwali music, Humayn has graced the stages of the Asilah International Festival in Morocco, the Library of Congress in the Neptune Plaza Series and the Freer Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian Institute with PROBE as well as the Rumi Festival in Chapel Hill, NC, to mention a few.  No stranger to the Kennedy Center, where he has performed numerous times, he is perhaps, most well reputed for his series of Concerts for Peace following the horrors of September 11th.  He has provided instrumental accompaniment for live performances in Eastern Europe with both Ustad Vilayat Khan and Ustad Zakir Husain, and CD recordings by Mashkoor Ali Khan and Ustad Rashid Khan on the AIM Record label.  He performed the instrumental music for the soundtrack of the Mira Nair feature film, Kama Sutra, and sang for the award-winning BBC radio feature, Monsoon, subsequently broadcast throughout the US in abridged form by NPR in 1999.  He was proclaimed, Best Rsising Star of Afghan music by Taranasaz, the renowned singer-songwriter of Afghanistan.

Born in Morocco, Kader attended the Casablanca Conservatory of Music where he received degrees in Arts Direction, Music and Saxophone.  His subsequent degrees at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government include the Executive Program on Leadership & Public Management as well as the Executive Program in Policy Development.  A devoted scholar and researcher of ethnomusicology, for the past eight years, Kader has served as Arabesques Arts & Culture’s Artistic Director in charge of cultural programs worldwide.  From 1993-2000 in the capacity as their Director of Operations, he designed, developed and executed corporate artistic productions worldwide, including many prestigious North American venues from the Kennedy Center to the Ronald Regan Building, The Smithsonian Museums and the National Mall.   

He has been the Artistic Director for DC’s Al Arabi Institute since 1997 developing and directing the annual Al Arabi Festival welcoming over 450 participants from the Arab world.   He has served as Curator and Ethnomusicology Consultant to the Smithsonian Institute for Matisse in Morocco, The African Immigrant, The Folklife Festival and The Fabric of Moroccan Life.  His client roster spans the gamut from Sony Music to the Cairo Opera House.   Extensive TV projects include Senior Producer for ANA TV Network and Director of Programming for MBC ANA TV (full grid of original productions for the first Arabic Network.) From 1997-2004 he served as Washington Bureau Chief for the leading Arabic and French weekly magazines, Le Journal Hebdomadaire (winner of the 2004 CPJ International Press Freedom Awards.)  He also served as President of the National Council on American-Moroccan Relations for DC from 1999-2003 and as Secretary General for the American Moroccan Forum in DC from 1997-99.  He is an Executive Board Member of Genesis at the Crossroads and the Musical Director of this Ensemble.  He collaboratively arranged the music for the opening piece composed by Maitre Said El Azizi El Alaoui.

A classically trained musician, Anis boasts a mastery of percussion – tympani, the marimbas, and the xylophone. He began his professional career at age 14 as the Musical Arranger/keyboard player for The Kasbah Band, with whom he toured the US.  His  presence graced some of the finest stages from DC’s Wolf Trap, to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Atlantic City’s Taj Mahal, New Orlean’s Long Vue House and Boston’s Roxy.  He also toured with Moroccan-Jewish pop star Pinhas Cohen as well as Haj Youness, Cheb Nasro and Lotfi Bouchnak in various capacities as a percussionist and keyboard player.  Since 1994, Anis has also made a name for himself as an accomplished concert producer of reputed Arab singers, including Amro Diab, Assalah, Amira Said, and Najwa Karam for Arabesques as well as the Ritz Carlton.

Best described as a percussionist with an expansive repertoire and an uncommon exuberance, Mohcine combines percussion instruments with authentic styling derived from all parts of the world.  Equally versatile on tap drums as well as the Arabic tabla, and Latin and African percussion, Mohcine is frequently mentioned in his native Morocco where he has performed with the country’s elite entertainers. After moving to the US, his remarkable talent made him the percussionist of choice for all the major Arab lead singers touring the US, including the likes of Kazem Al Saher, winner of the 2004 BBC’s World Music Award.  Mohcine is also one of the Founders of the acclaimed Sounds of Morocco music ensemble

Born, in Tehran, Composer, Producer and Guitarist Shahin Shahida is one of the first published Iranian musicians to incorporate traditional Persian scales with Western rhythms and compositions. His early schooling at the Tehran International School introduced him to Western education, culture and music, providing a backdrop for his early musical interests.  Self-taught on old blues, folk and R&B, he often collaborated with Persian musicians equally intrigued by his Western style of guitar playing as he was with their traditional Persian format.  His move to the US unleashed his talent as a songwriter and galvanized his natural facility to create innovative ensembles, the most successful of which was his collaboration with Sepehr Haddad.

After performing at the White House, they went on to record an entire body of compositions named One Thousand & One Nights.  This collection of 11 songs attracted record company executives at Higher Octave Music, who signed the artists onto a five album contract. Released in the fall of 1994, this debut CD, produced by Grammy Nominee Producer William Aura (producer for Ottmar Leibert) made its way to #6 on the Billboard Charts.  Since then, the duo has released five more CDs including Aria, e, East West Highway, Nostalgia, Pascha and World Café all at the top of the Billboard Charts.

Throughout his musical career, Shahin used his voice as a messenger for peace, collaboratively performing and recording with renowned musicians from all over the world, including one of the most prominent Iranian tar and oud players, Shahram Mir Jallali, Persian Santur Virtuoso, Ardavan Kamkar, (on Peter Gabriel’s Real World label,) Iranian composer and Santur player, Kazem Davoudian, Cameroonian singer, Armand Ntepe, and Afghani singer- songwriter, Humayun Khan.  Shahin has appeared on NPR, CNN, ABC, and the BBC, always referring to his successful collaborations with other international artists as examples of efforts to enrich the human experience. The moto that graces his CD covers As in music, so in life, best describes Shahin’s personal approach to life.  He serves as an Executive Board Member of Genesis at the Crossroads and has been a performing artist for GATC’s programs since 2000.


Maitre El Alaoui, a native of Casablanca won the prestigious Premier Prix de Violon from the Casablanca Conservatory of Music, prior to assuming the Director of Casablanca’s Cultural Center of Sidi Belyout.  He also served as Professor of Violin at the conservatory, and lead violinist for the Casablanca Symphony Orchestra as well as the Amana Orchestra.  He toured extensively and headlined in major festivals in France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Tunisia, Algeria, Peru and the United States, to name but  a few.  In 2002 he also wrote the score for one of Morocco’s classic movies, What a Wonderful Life. In the Spring of the same year, he was hired by Jean Michel Jarre, the legendary French musician and composer to compose the arrangements for his landmark Water for Life concert held in the Saharan desert to benefit UNESCO. The concert boasted a live audience of more than 30,000 with a worldwide broadcast to millions more. (Over 60 million albums were sold worldwide.)
  The Genesis World Music Ensemble