5. Joseph Tayoun: Philly’s Middle Eastern Music Scene


Aram interviews Joseph Tayoun, an accomplished percussionist and educator specializing in Middle Eastern and World music based in Philadelphia. They discuss the history of Philadelphia’s Middle East Night Club, his experience playing in a multitude of world music projects and his Star Trek Party band, The Roddenberries, upcoming release.

Topics include:

  • Tayoun as the torchbearer of the Philadelphia middle eastern music scene, an accomplished percussionist and the time spent at his family’s establishment “The Middle East” restaurant as part of the trendy middle eastern music scene.
  • Discussion of the diverse array of middle eastern cultures playing music together.
  • Tayoun’s background starting up as a drummer playing with various musicians of different backgrounds.
  • Belly dancing and live music 7 nights a week was truly a special time for Tayoun as a youngster
  • Tayoun’s father played the oud and he was immersed in live performance of Arabs, Armenians, Turks, Greeks, etc.
  • Ray Merjanian (oud), Najib Nassar (organ), Chick Ganimian (oud) and Tayoun played with Chick when Tayoun was only 14 years old. Chick was known for his expressive and unique style of playing featuring syncopation and Tayoun was impacted greatly by this. Chick also played with Herbie Mann.
  • Tayoun also played with Farhak Alpar (Saz), Garip (violin), Edmund Joseph (percussion/vocals), Joseph Budway (oud), Bobby Sarkissian (clarinet) and various others.
  • The Middle East restaurant was the music hub for this style for many years (along with Café Yaz) until about 1997, and how some other restaurants offered late night music (Greek spots like Little Pete’s and also Buffalo Bills in West Philadelphia), and the emergence of the Nile restaurant. The Middle East booked shows with No Doubt and Bo Diddley, in addition to the standard Middle Eastern scene.
  • Edmund Joseph’s arrival from Iran and his impact on the Middle Eastern music scene in both Philadelphia and New York City.
  • Tayoun’s early years developing as a percussionist watching his father and the older musicians, and starting with tambourine and then percussion.
  • Hamid Dolbashi’s performances with ney and zurna and his command of the music and how easily he fit in with other musicians.
  • Tayoun’s time playing music with his future brother-in-law Roger Mgrdichian, and their strong onstage chemistry.
  • Going from rock to fusion, with projects like Barakka and also Jaffna which features a tabla, oud and guitar, and how this has had an impact on his playing and keeping him sharp.
  • Tayoun works with emotionally disturbed children in Morrisville, PA and shares his music and drumming which is very beneficial to the brain.
  • Works with various musicians from all over the world, including Chinese and even sci-fi related artists (a Star Trek tribute band named “The Roddenberries”) at Fringe Festival.
  • For the 50th Anniversary of the creation of Star Trek, Rod Roddenberry (Gene Roddenberry’s son) hired Tayoun and the band to perform in Las Vegas.
  • Tayoun’s advice for playing percussion in the Middle Eastern style.
  • The upcoming Middle East tribute night at Frankie Bradleys on June 13th with live music and belly dancers
  • The upcoming CD Release party on June 27th at the World Cafe Live in Philadelphia for The Roddenberries

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