Boston / National
Mitchell Kaltsunas has been delighting Arabic music fans in the United States with his singing for over two decades.
Kaltsunas,who comes from Greek, Egyptian, and Syrian heritage, started playing guitar at nine years old. Soon, however, the Western string instrument lost out to the Middle Eastern oud and derbakke (tablah) for the young musician's attention.
Kaltsunas credits his Near Eastern roots for putting him close to Arabic music.
As a teenager, he played alongside professional musicians in popular Massachusetts clubs like The Averof and The Middle East in Cambridge, and El-Morocco in Worcester.
During those late nights of his musical education, the self-taught Kaltsunas learned the best of Arabic, Greek, Turkish, and even Persian music.
In 1979, Kaltsunas created his own band to focus solely on Arabic music. As lead singer, he paid his dues playing the same Boston area nightclubs he learned in as a teenager. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, he established a name for himself playing clubs and special events across the Northeast.
Over the years, Kaltsunas and his band have opened up for many of the Arabic world's biggest singers, including Melhem Barakat, Ragheb Alami, George Wassouf, and Najwa Karam. Kaltsunas has also played alongside the likes of Elias Karam, Eli Shweiri, Tony Hanna, and Samir Hanna.
But he is more than just an energetic opening act or a solid accompaniment. In fact, Kaltsunas plays the best of Middle Eastern music all while harboring a huge secret: He doesn't speak Arabic.
Born and raised in Boston, Kaltsunas did not have the privilege of growing up in an Arabic-speaking household. This language barrier has been a difficult obstacle to overcome. Working with a translator, he often takes days to learn song lyrics. Yet his success in over two decades of performing attest to his talent and the universality of music.
Today, Kaltsunas is sought after at events throughout the United States. He brings an enthusiasm and accessibility that is refreshing for the industry. He plays for hours at a time, with his audience often tiring out before he does. He sings as if each performance could be his last.
One day, Kaltsunas hopes to find a producer interested in promoting him across Europe and the Middle East. Until then, he is a singer for hire anywhere in the world. He is available for huflis, weddings, anniversaries, and other events.