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Itraab Arabic Music Ensemble

Founded in 2014 as a project of Moss Arts Center, the Itraab Arabic Music Ensemble (whose name translates as “enchantment through music”) explores traditional and contemporary repertoire from the Middle East, North and East Africa, and Gulf regions. The ensemble performs vocal and instrumental music representing art, folk and popular musical styles, and occasionally original compositions by Itraab members. The group is directed by Anne Elise Thomas, Ph.D., an ethnomusicologist with over 25 years of experience studying and performing Arabic music on the qanun, a 78-stringed zither. Instrumentation is flexible and typically includes violin, viola, cello, bass, `ud (11-stringed Arab lute), nay (a reed flute), percussion and vocalists. Some repertoire can include flute, guitar, accordion, and other instruments (and dance).


Learning with Itraab involves not only musical instruction, but also dialogue and discussion about language, history, and culture. Itraab performs publicly several times per year, both on and off campus, and often hosts guest artists to teach and perform with them. Past guest artists have included Egyptian-American multi-instrumentalist Karim Nagi, Syrian-American hip-hop artist Omar Offendum, Iranian-Canadian fusion group Niyaz, and Rajab Suleiman and Kithara from Zanzibar. The ensemble engages locally with community groups, including the Blacksburg Refugee Partnership, the YMCA, and various cultural groups and centers on campus.

Rehearsals typically take place on Sunday afternoons, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Moss Arts Center. The ensemble is open to all Virginia Tech students, faculty, and staff, and members of the community. Previous musical experience is a plus, but not required. Virginia Tech students can take the ensemble for credit through the School of Performing Arts. Youth ages 10 and up may participate with a parent. No audition is required, but new members must join in the first two weeks of each semester (fall and spring) and commit to an entire semester of rehearsing and performing.

Please contact the director, Anne Elise Thomas, if you are interested in learning more or joining Itraab.