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Musical Instruction at MAQAM® - MIMI SPENCER (1946-2004 ) Bio
 
Mimi Spencer al-Khayyam has been performing Middle Eastern music and dance for more than 20 years. She has played the kanun since 1978, and sings in seven languages. With Vince Delgado and Devi-ja Delgado, she founded the ensemble Jazayer in 1973, one of the first American groups (with no member having any ethnic Middle Eastern ancestry) performing authentic classical, urban and folkloric music from the Middle East. The group still exists today and so far has published two LPs, six cassettes and three compact discs.

Mimi's devotion to Middle Eastern music began when she first listened to Vince Delgado's collection of old Arabic, Turkish, Armenian and Greek recordings on audio tape. Then she happened to take a lesson on the ba lama saz with Assyrian kanunist Ishmael. Shortly afterwards, Jazayer was formed and Mimi began transcribing music for the ensemble to play. A few years later, she decided to learn the qanun, and took a lesson with Ishmael on that instrument. Most of the Middle Eastern music she plays was transcribed by herself from records, tapes, compact discs, and occasionally from live performances. Dr. Ali Jihad Racy contributed enormously to her knowledge of Arabic music, from their first meeting in the late 70's onwards; from him, she began learning the names of the maqam-s and the structure of the music she had transcribed. She gained invaluable experience in performing Arabic music while working at the Bagdad Cabaret in San Francisco in the early 80's and performing for many weddings and parties among the local Arab community. Since then she has performed regularly and irregularly at countless Middle Eastern and Greek restaurants, nightclubs, parties, festivals, and concerts.

The author of five books in the field of Middle Eastern music, Mimi is also the president of Near Eastern Music West, Inc., a nonprofit educational corporation, and she edits the Near Eastern Music Calendar, a newsletter of Middle Eastern music events centered in northern California.

In 1996, she arranged for the U.S. visit of Turkish National Conservatory musicians Necati Celik, Sadrettin Ozcimi, and Goksel Baktagir, under the sponsorship of Near Eastern Music West, as well as Necati's 1997 visit here.

Mimi visited Istanbul in February 1997, where she appeared twice with the great udist Necati Çelik on Saman Yolu television and was a dinner guest of Necdet Ya ar, founder of the Turkish State Classical Music Ensemble, among other memorable experiences. She is currently an ud and maqam student of Necati Celik, and frequently performs with him (upon the kanun) when he visits the United States. Mimi also teaches ud, kanun, Middle Eastern singing and maqam both in classes and privately in the San Francisco area, and she has taught kanun at the Middle Eastern Music and Dance Camp in Mendocino.

Mimi's playing, with the Jazayer ensemble, with Mary Ellen Donald, and with others, may be heard upon a number of compact discs and cassettes, many of which are listed in the discography of this book. In July 2002 she released her first "solo" CD, Right Where I Want To Be, of traditional Arabic, Armenian and Greek music, plus two original compositions. Mimi has also performed and taught "Oriental" or "belly" dance for many years under the name of "Mimika" ("meeMEEkah"), and is an enthusiastic practitioner of Greek folk dancing.
   All Mimi Spencer CDs & Books at MAQAM®

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