Tag Archives: Palestinian music

Artist Profiles: Simon Shaheen

Simon Shaheen

Simon Shaheen is one of the most significant Arab musicians, performers, and composers of his generation. His work incorporates and reflects a legacy of Arabic music, while it forges ahead to new frontiers, embracing many different styles in the process. This unique contribution to the world of arts was recognized in 1994 when Shaheen was honored with the prestigious National Heritage Award.

In the 1990s he released four albums of his own: Saltanah (Water Lily Acoustics), Turath (CMP), Taqasim (Lyrichord), and The Music of Mohamed Abdel Wahab (Axiom), while also contributing cuts to producer Bill Laswell’s fusion collective, Hallucination Engine (Island). He arranged and re-recorded the smash remake of the Latin singer Soraya’s song, “I’m Yours,” released on the compilation Desert Roses and Arabian Rhythms.

He has contributed selections to soundtracks for The Sheltering Sky and Malcolm X, among others, and has composed the entire soundtrack for the United Nations-sponsored documentary, For Everyone Everywhere. Broadcast globally in December 1998, this film celebrated the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Human Rights Charter.

But perhaps his greatest success has come with Blue Flame (ARK21, 2001), where he leads his group, Qantara, on a labyrinthine journey through the world of fusion music to discover the heart of the Middle East. With Qantara he also recorded Two Tenors & Qantara: Historic Live Recording of Arabic Masters

Shaheen: Tradition and Creativity – A Heritage without Boundaries

Story by Kay Hardy Campbell (From the ARAMCO WORLD MAGAZINE May/June 1996. Reproduced by courtesy of Aramco World Magazine)

All day the Brooklyn Museum had rung with the rhythms of Arab musicians, the verses of poets and the background buzz of crowds in conversation. So when Simon Shaheen appeared on stage late in the afternoon, the quiet that settled around him was his audience’s way of acknowledging a special maestro. Shaheen ran this fingers through his dark wavy hair, lifted his violin and bow and locked eyes with each of the 16 musicians in his Near Eastern Music Ensemble.

Inspired by the Arab-American music and dance festivals that flourished from the 1930’s to the 1950’s, Shaheen organized last fall’s Mahrajan al-Fan, or festival of art, a weekend extravaganza of Arab-American culture. Booths from Arab restaurants, henna-painting lessons, folk dance, and a show of traditional Arab costumes framed performances by Arab-American musicians, poets, authors, filmmakers, and scholars. They came to Brooklyn from around the country to give visitors and each otheran exciting vision of the Arab cultures of their homelands, from Morocco to the Arabian Peninsula.

But as Simon Shaheen drew his bow into the haunting measures of his best-known composition, “Sama’i Kurd Shaheen,” his role as festival organizer and fundraiser fell away, and the hall was filled with the musical gifts that have made 40-year-old Shaheen one of the brightest, fastest rising stars in Arab music.

Shaheen’s musical journey began, in a sense, even before he was born in Tarshiha, in the Galilee. His family was full of instrumentalists and singers.

My grandfather was the principal singer in the church, and he also sang the classical Arab music repertoire,” he says. Shaheen’s father, Hikmat Shaheen, was a well-known player of the ‘ud the pear-shaped, short-necked, fretless forerunner of the European lute as well as a composer, educator, and founder of two regional orchestras.

At seven Shaheen began eight years of study of western classical music in Haifaby age 12 his father had him help run the orchestra. “I did all the rehearsals and arranged everything, while he supervised,” Shaheen says.

And at night, he says, the family would listen to the radio, where the airwaves were full of great Arab music, for those were the days of the famous Thursday-night broadcasts on Egyptian Radio’s “Voice of the Arabs.” The whole Arab world came to a halt to hear Umm Kalthum sing live full-length concerts to the big orchestral compositions of Riyad al-Sunbati, Mohamed Abdel Wahhab and others.

Umm Kalthum “used to come on the air on the first Thursday of each month,” Shaheen recalls with a smile. “I always remembered much of any new song she sang. The next morning I would hum the introduction and different parts for my father, and he would notate them.”

Shaheen went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in literature and music from the Academy of Music in Jerusalem, where he later taught. Yet “my real education,” he says, “was working with my father.”

Since he came to the United States in 1980 to pursue graduate studies in music, of course Simon Shaheen has made New York City his base for both the preservation of traditional Arab music and the exploration of artistic frontiers. Now, he is increasingly regarded as one of the most dynamic musical links between the Arab world and the West.

A fast-paced concert schedule brings him and the Near Eastern Music Ensemble to stages throughout North America and Europe. He is a master teacher of the ‘ud and violin as well as a popular lecturer. He composes both alone and in collaboration with others. But most important, Shaheen is increasingly looked upon as an inspiration.

He has so much love for Arab music that you cannot escape it,” says ensemble soloist Ghada Ghanim. “Even if you are in the audience or just passing by, his enthusiasm will grab you!”

As a performer on both violin and ‘ud, Shaheen conquers complex phrases with mesmerizing frenzy and caresses others with quiet tenderness. He draws from a deep well of technique, applies it creatively, and metes out expression in deliberately tantalizing measure.

In 1994 Shaheen was awarded one of 11 National Heritage Fellowship Awards for outstanding contributions to traditional music. The New York Daily News has called his interpretations “some of the most sublime Arab music to be heard this side of the Dead Sea.” In February, he played a concert of traditional and original music as part of Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series.

Shaheen “combines technique with feeling,” says ethnomusicologist, composer and performer Ali Jihad Racy (See Aramco World, September/October 1995). “He is the product of two traditions. Conservatory-trained, he has one foot in western classical music, the other at the center of the Arab musical tradition. This is very unusual.”

Shaheen is also a master of taqasim, or improvisations. Arab instrumentalists use taqasim to explore a maqam, a scale or mode, with a series of musical phrases that the performer strings like pearls on a strand of pauses. Shaheen’s improvisations “invoke all the possible wealth of the maqam and rhythm,” says poet and musician Mansour Ajami. In a collaborative 1983 recording titled Taqasim, Shaheen playfully traded improvisation on the ‘ud with Racy on the buzuq, the ‘ud’s long-necked cousin.

Likewise, modal shifts and unexpected rhythmic phrases fill his popular compositions, such as “Sama’i Kurd Shaheen.” The resulting level of invention within traditional form is unrivaled among today’s composers. In its third verse he changes the maqam an astonishing six times, and only at the very last moment does he bring the melody back to kurd, the “home” maqam for which the piece is named. In the last verse, he bursts out of the base 10/8 rhythm, not into the sama’i’s traditional 3/4 or 6/8 closing rhythm, but into what proves to be a thrilling, unusual 7/8.

Shaheen’s traditional arrangements and compositions appear on two recordings. The Music of Mohamed Abdel Wahab is Shaheen’s tribute to the late Egyptian composer and consists largely of Shaheen’s orchestrations of Abdel Wahhab’s music. “Turath” (“Heritage”) is Shaheen’s compilation of classical Arab ensemble music. The Library of Congress named it one of the outstanding traditional recordings of 1992. By late 1995, Shaheen had three further recordings in progress.

Ever since he was a boy, Shaheen’s artistic openness and gregarious personality have propelled him across cultural boundaries, and in New York, he has delighted in the city’s trove of artistic possibilities. “I have preserved my artistry, the traditional Arab and western classical repertoire, in New York,” he says. “At the same time, I’ve been exposed to many ideas. I have met many musicians in New York who have widened my perspective.”

He is one of several jazz artists who make up the experimental fusion group Material, which appears on the Axiom label. Rolling Stone called Material’s 1994 Hallucination Engine. “One groovy om of exhilaration and release.” Shaheen left a strong imprint on the group’s “The Hidden Garden/Naima”, and “Ruins,” both of which blended Arabic vocals and instrumentals with western rock, jazz and classical elements. Another fusion recording, with Indian slide guitarist Vishwa Bhatt and titled Saltanah, is forthcoming on the Water Lily Acoustics label.

As a teacher of students of both Arab and non-Arab backgrounds, Shaheen reaches out to help them grasp the sensibility and structure of Arab music. William Nakhly, the Galilee-born conductor of Boston’s Middle East Orchestra and Chorus, pursuing a doctorate of music in the United States, says that he and many other young Palestinian musicians emulate Shaheen’s ensemble concepts. They collect tapes of his rehearsals and his live performances, he says, to study his work more closely.

“I think Simon is having a great impact,” says Racy. “The culture needs a role model who combines tradition, authenticity and creativity, someone who combines roots with innovation. Simon thinks deeply about his music. He has true sensitivity to it as a culture, as a legacy, as a message, and he is conscious of the importance of this musical message.”

The coming years will no doubt see Shaheen’s work bear further fruit as his global audience widens. Two sold-out concerts in January in Haifa, played in honor of his father, featured his recent compositions, “Long Kurd Shaheen” and “Al Cantra.” His debut in Lebanon, scheduled for this year, will mark the fulfillment of his personal dream to perform, at last, in Beirut.

Beyond recording and composing, Shaheen is exploring the possible foundation of an Arab arts institute in New York. But his greatest hope, he says, is to make music “that people will view as sincere and without boundaries.” Music “should become the heritage, the turath, of whatever community you belong to. For music to be truly successful, it has to be within the realm of turath.”

As Shaheen carries his reinvigorated legacy to a new generation, it is easy to imagine he will reach his goal.

What to Listen For: Simon Shaheen has some advice for those listening to Arab music for the first time. “Think with your voice when you listen to Arab music. It has a linear quality like the voice. Concentrate on its melodies, and listen to how they interact with the rhythm. Arab music is characterized by the use of quarter-tones, which lie between the half-steps of western music. They have a quality that you may not be able to hear at first. Don’t think of them as out-of-tune notes. They are deliberate. The more you listen, the more you will begin to hear them and come to love them, for it is the quarter-tones which distinguish many beautiful maqams in Arabic music.”

What to Listen To:

Taqasim: Art of Improvisation in Arabic Music (Lyrichord LYRCD 7374, 1983)
The Music of Mohamed Abdel Wahab (Axiom/Island Records 846754, 1990)
Turath (Heritage) (CMP Records 3006, 1992)
Hallucination Engine, by Material (Axiom/Island Records 314518-3512, 1994)
Saltanah, with Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (Water Lily Acoustics, 1996)

While a seven-year resident of Saudi Arabia, Kay Hardy Campbell wrote for the Arab News and the Saudi Gazette. She lives near Boston, where she plays the ‘ud with the Middle East Orchestra and Chorus.

Simon Shaheen Discography

Taqasim: Art of Improvisation in Arabic Music (Lyrichord, 1983)
The Music of Mohamed Abdel Wahab (Axiom, 1990)
Turath (Heritage) (CMP, 1992)
Hallucination Engine (Axiom/Island Records 314518-3512, 1994)
Saltanah (Water Lily Acoustics, 1996)
Two Tenors & Qantara: Historic Live Recording of Arabic Masters (Ark 21, 2000)
Blue Flame (Ark 21, 2001)

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Artist Profiles: Wissam Joubran

Le Trio Joubran

Wissam Joubran was born in 1983, and was introduced very young to ud by his brother Samir. He attended numerous local and international festivals, among them the Printemps de Palestine, in France in 1997.

He has inherited of his father’s vocation, a stringed-instrument maker master, and is strikingly talented in improvising and creating clever and appropriate transitions between the Arabic Maqams.

Wissam was the first string-instrument maker from the Arabic world to enter the Antonio Stradivari Institute (Italy) in order to bring his knowledge to perfection. Samir and Wissam started to go on tour outside of the Middle East on August 2002, and their reputation never stopped to grow while they performed in Europe, Canada and Brazil.

Discography

Randana (Randana, 2005)
Majaz (Randana, 2007)
À l’ombre des mots (2008)
AsFar, with Dhafer Youssef (2011)
The First Ten Years (2013)

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Artist Profiles: Suhail Khoury

Suhail Khoury

Suhail Khoury’s music is deeply connected with his personal experiences. It talks about freedom, victory, Jerusalem and love. Some of it was composed during Suhail Khoury’s six-month imprisonment in 1988 for producing a tape of music, and is a manifestation of Khoury’s experience in the Israeli jails. One piece talks about the streets of Jerusalem after midnight, which he composed while walking through the streets of the Old City at 2.00a.m in the morning; and another one entitled ‘Ramallah-Jerusalem and vice versa,’ portrays the current situation on the road between Jerusalem and Ramallah, the exhausting daily experience of having to pass through checkpoints, road bumps and countless public transportation vehicles.

Suhail Khoury has collaborated with Ahmad Khatib in arrangements, and Karloma Group.

Discography

Marah (1987)
Marj Ben Amer (1989)
Ashiqa (1995)
Matar (1998)
Al-Fawanees (2004)
Jerusalem After Midnight (2009)

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Artist Profiles: Samir Joubran

Samir Joubran

Samir Joubran was born in 1973 in Nazareth. He is a Palestinian ud virtuoso and graduate of the Abdul-Wahab Conservatory for Eastern Music, Cairo. He is a music teacher and a lecturer about Eastern Music History.

In 1994, Jubran founded the Al’Een Nazareth Group which participated in the Third Arabic Musical Festival in the Opera House in Cairo. He has also participated in various festivals in France and Palestine combining music and poetry.

Since his first appearance in France at the Nuits atypiques festival in Langon in 2002, and the release of his first album Tamaas in February 2003, Samir has unfailingly delighted the public.

The first musician to have received a two-year grant from the International Parliament of Writers (2003 – 2004) in Pontedera, Italy, his recent decision to settle in Europe has provided a platform on which to develop his reputation, touring France, Europe and beyond.

His success at the Cha?non Manquant festival in Figeac brought him a series of concerts in France. His performance at Strictly Mundial 2003 in Marseilles led to engagements at top European festivals including Moers in Germany and Sfinx in Belgium.

In 2004, Samir was selected for the Rideau 2004 project in Montreal, gaining his first opportunity to perform in North America.

Samir performs in duo or trio formations with his younger brothers: Wissam Jubran and Adnan Jubran under Le Trio Joubran.

Discography

Misunderstanding (Dar Productions, 2001)
Tamaas (daquí, 2003)
Randana (2005)
Majaz (2007)
À l’ombre des mots (2008)
Le Dernier VoL, with Chkrrr (2009)
AsFar, with Dhafer Youssef (2011)
The First Ten Years (2013) boxed set of 5 CDs and 1 DVD
The Long March (Cooking Vinyl, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: Rim Banna

Rim Banna

Rim Banna is a Palestinian singer born in the city of Nazareth in Galilee. She loved music and singing ever since she was a child. She participated in festivals commemorating Land Day (March 30)as well as in national and political occasions. She also participated in celebrations at schools.

Rim started her artistic life when she was 10 years old. She studied music and singing at the Higher Music Conservatory (Gnesins) in Moscow. She specialized in modern singing and in leading vocal ensembles. She finished the 6-year academic studies and graduated in 1991. During this time, Rim produced two albums of live recordings: Jafra and Your Tears, O Mother.

In 1991 Rim married Leonid Alexeyenko, a musician from Ukraine. Leonid studied music and singing together with Rim at the Higher Music Conservatory in Moscow, where they worked together in music and composing. Currently, they live in the Arab city of Nazareth, the capital of the Galilee.

Rim Banna’s songs are unique first and foremost because she composes most of her songs. She has a special musical method in composing and singing her songs. Her songs are inspired from the heart of the Palestinian People, from its heritage, its history and culture. Her singing and music are also inspired by the rhythms of the desert in the south, by the sea along the long Palestinian coastline, by the beautiful nature and its lovely colors of the flatland and the hills, by the echo between the mountains and the valleys, by the beat of the ancient Canaanite hymns which imitated the sound of the pure water emerging from between the rocks and the singing of the birds in the fields, that do not migrate but stand steadfast just like the blessed olive tree and the stubborn cacti which fill the land of Palestine.

The music and the melodies are inspired by the solidity of the lyric and from a profound feeling of the rhythm of the word. The intermarriage between word and tune take us from the skies of Palestine into the whole world. Her songs express the suffering of the Palestinian People, its dreams and obsessions, its joys, its sadness and its hopes.

The lyrics of the songs are by famous Palestinian poets: Tawfiq Zayyad, Mahmoud Darwish, Samih Al Qasim, Zuhaira Sabbagh, Sidi Harkash and some songs are written by Rim Banna herself. The two artists, Rim Banna and Leonid participate in composing the tunes in a creative and unique way.

Rim Banna’s specialty is the Palestinian genre Tahalil which are children’s bedtime songs. These had been imprisoned inside rooms until Rim sang them and presented them to the audience all over the world. Rim is still the only singer who presents Tahalil.

Rim sang several songs for children which she wrote and composed herself. These songs became widely popular among children especially when presented at Children’s Festivals such as Nawwar Nisan Festival, Farah and Marah Festival, Jericho Winter Festival and Martyrs’ Children Festival.

Rim Banna and Leonid present the Palestinian traditional song in a modern way both musically and in terms of its performance without destroying the essence of the tune or the beauty of the lyric. Together with her husband, Rim composes music for Palestinian popular lyrics such as popular stories, games and seasons songs. They compose music for these lyrics, which is inspired from Palestinian popular music, ancient Arabic music and also from international music of different nations. Rim Banna’s songs posses a rare continuity from generation to generation which maintains the great heritage of authentic popular art which is rooted deeply and fortifies National belonging.

Rim Banna and Leonid have participated in numerous local and International festivals in Egypt, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Czech Republic, Jordan, at the Mediterranean Women Festival in Tunisia, Switzerland, Romania, Denmark and Morocco.

Rim’s songs also played an important role in several film and TV productions, including documentary programs about the Palestinian popular uprising (Intifada) in Palestine.

Rim Banna carries a message and aspires to achieve several goals:
– Upgrading the Arabic Palestinian committed and untraditional song to the level of the international song.
– Upgrading the ability to enjoy popular music and singing to a suitable Arab and international level and liberating the Arab song from negative influences.

Discography

The Dream (1993)
New Moon (1995)
Mukagha (El-Tufula Center, 1996)
Al-Quds Everlasting (2002)
Krybberom (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2003)
The Mirrors Of My Soul (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2005)
This Was Not My Story (EMI Music Arabia, 2006)
Seasons Of Violet – Lovesongs From The Palestine (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2007)
April Blossoms (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2009)
Revelation Of Ecstasy & Rebellion (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2013)
Jul På Orkesterplass (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2015)
Voice Of Resistance (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: Oriental Music Ensemble (OME)

The Oriental Music Ensemble (OME) was established by the National Conservatory of Music in Palestine in 1996. It has participated in numerous musical and cultural events locally and abroad.

The music pieces chosen by the group are selected for their artistic meaning and expression. Some of the pieces are so old that their composer is unknown and some are modern, composed by contemporary composers. Other pieces belong to the gypsy and folklore genres.

Every music genre has its own texture and Arabic music has its own texture as well. What characterizes Arabic Music is the Hetrophonic Texture, which is the essence and the soul of Arabic Music and its source of strength. Hetrophonic Texture is the ratio and the interrelationship between the “voices” of the instruments. Western classical musical ensembles play the same note in a direct manner whereas in Arabic music there is musical embellishment which comes down to a discrepancy in the speed of playing music between the different musical instruments. Each musician plays on his own, which contributes to speed differences on one side and to musical intertwining and harmony on the other. Here lies the strength of Arabic Music.

The instruments used by the OME are the same instruments used since hundreds of years. No change whatsoever occurred on them, meaning that no technological change was imposed on them, which make them authentic Arabic music instruments. Therefore, the buzuq is the same buzuq the great Arab musician – Al Farabi – from the 11th century described. No changes have been added to it. The same applies to the nay (Arabic Flute) and the oud (Arabic lute). The instruments are pure oriental instruments and they are locally hand-made by Palestinian music instrument makers.

Musicians:

Khaled Jubran: ud and buzuq
Suhail Khoury: nay and clarinet
Ibrahim Attari: qanun
Habib Shehadeh: ud
Ramzi Bisharaton: percussion

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Artist Profiles: Nizar Rohana

Nizar Rohana

Nizar Rohana is a Palestinian ud player living in the Netherlands. He stands out for bringing together virtuosity within fresh contemporary compositions, while maintaining the ud’s authentic language.

He was born in the village of ‘Isifya on Mount Carmel, near Haifa city, to a father who played ud in communal celebrations. His mother accompanied him on percussion. From a young age, Rohana played music, picking up the ud when he was 13.

After extensive studies in ud performance, composition, and musicology, Rohana immersed himself in developing contemporary ud compositions, taking inspiration from Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and Brahms all the way to Tanburi Cemil Bey, Kemani Tatyus Efendi, Muhammad Al-Qasabji and Muhammad Abdel Wahab.

In 2001 he was awarded a Bachelor of Music and Arts (specialized in ud performance and musicology) from the Arabic Music Department of the Jerusalem Academy for Music and Dance and the Musicology Department of the Hebrew University. For some time he then focused his work on the music of the great Egyptian composer Muhammad Al-Qasabji, completing his Master’s degree in 2006.

Since September 2013, Rohana has been based in The Netherlands, pursuing his PhD in improvisation and composition in solo ud performance at Leiden University Academy for Creative and Performing Arts. He is working under the supervision of Prof. Joep Bor, Prof. Frans De Ruiter and Dr. Anne Van Oostrum, as part of the doctoral program designed for musician-researchers, docARTES.

As a performer, Rohana’s wide-ranging stage experience as a soloist and within groups encompasses playing traditional, modern, experimental, and world music. During the last years, he performed in countries such as Japan, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey and in the USA and Europe, releasing his first album Sard (Narration) in May 2008.

In 2013 he formed his own trio together with Hungarian double bass player Matyas Szandai, and French-Lebanese percussionist Wassim Halal, releasing their debut album Furat (Euphrates) in 2016.

In 2015, Rohana was invited by the acclaimed Dutch bass player Tony Overwater to participate in the music recordings for the IKON documentary series ‘Om de Oude Wereldzee’ (‘Around the Ancient World Sea’), based on the travels of Dutch politician Abraham Kuyper. In 2016, Overwater and Rohana formed the Rohana-Overwater Ensemble together with the Dutch clarinetist Maarten Ornestein; Tunisian violinist and viola d’amore player Jasser Haj Youssef and Jordanian percussionist Nasser Salameh.

Between 2001 and 2007 Rohana was one of the main ud and music theory teachers at the Edward Said National Conservatory in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem, and in 2006 he also worked as the deputy for academic affairs.

Discography

Sard (2008)
Furat (Loplop Records, 2016)

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Artist Profiles: Issa Boulos

Issa Boulos

Ud player, composer and teacher Issa Boulos was born in Jerusalem, Palestine, 1968. Issa Boulos comes from a family of both musical and literary traditions and began to study voice at the age of 7. At that early age, Issa showed extraordinary talent in singing Arab classical maqam repertoire. At the age of 13 he entered the Institute of Fine Arts in Ramallah to study the ‘ud with Abu Raw`hi ‘Ibaidu. He graduated in 1985 and worked in Ramallah as an arranger of folksongs and a musician in the ensemble of Sariyyat Ramallah Dance Group and Released al-‘Ashiq in 1986, and in al-Ra`hh’la, with composer Jamil al-Sayih and Released Rasif al-Madinah in 1989.

During the 1990s, under the influence of newly developed musical trends, Boulos’s career took a new direction. He pursued music composition in response to a contemporary concern for revolutionary cultural change and richer and more flexible responses to widely different dramatic requirements. He adopted the performance practices, educational principles and aesthetic values of Western art music while adapting his art to suit the sensibilities of Palestinian politicized taste and maintained a link with the maqam tradition by continuing its ancient line of oral transmission. From 1991 to 1993, Issa composed over 200 instrumental and vocal pieces and one large-scale work titled Kawkab Akhar.

He was appointed director of Birzeit University’s musical group Sanabil in addition to training Al- Funoun Popular Dance Troupe and Sareyyet Ramallah Troupe for Music and Dance. This era was the most experimental, challenging and yet prolific. It laid out conventional and modern compositional devices as abstract tools rather than absolute. His fascination with music towards higher levels of expression and interpretation encouraged him to examine other aspects of sound, and simultaneously broaden his artistic perspective, which was substantiated by the increasing number of questions concerning music making.

In 1994 he moved to Chicago, where he studied music composition at Columbia College Chicago with Gustavo Leone and Athanasios Zervas and later at Roosevelt University with Robert Lombardo and Ilya Levinson. In 1998 he co-founded the Issa Boulos Quartet, performing his original contemporary compositions that ranged from classical Arab compositions to jazz. After completing his Masters in 2000, he spent one year in his hometown where he was active as a composer, educator, ‘udist, and instructor of Western theory, ‘ud, chorus, ensemble and theory of Arab music at the National Conservatory of Music, Ramallah.

Issa has given workshops and lecture-demonstrations at several American institutions and colleges. He is cofounder of Sama Music, leader of the al-Sharq Ensemble, the Boulos Ensemble and member in Lingua Musica, and has recently been appointed director of the University of Chicago Middle East Ensemble. Although he has continued to write instrumental and vocal compositions, Boulos is best known for his theme works: Kawkab Akhar (1993), a large-scale instrumental work that capped his early stylistic development composed during the Palestinian Intifada, which was followed by ‘Arus al-Tira (1994), composed while he was an undergraduate; Samar (1998), and his extended work al-Hallaj (2000) which is a series of composed Sufi poems penetrating the philosophy and tragic ending of Abu al-Mughith al-Husayn Ibn Mansur al-`Hallaj.

His subsequent works include traditional Arabic compositions and arrangements, jazz, and film and theatre scores, notably those for Lysistrata 2000, Catharsis and recently the film The New Americans. In his orchestral composition, Shortly After Life, Boulos used a variety of Western classical compositional techniques; the work is a tribute to his father Ibrahim Boulos.

Boulos’s music still depends extensively on the melodic material of maqam; by treating this material through improvisations and using various musical techniques. His blend of tradition and innovation has forged important musical links between the Arab world and the West. Issa is currently involved with the Arab Classical Music Society (ACMC) that he established in 2003. The Society is launching an archive for Arab classical music and preparing for the release of the first volume of the Anthology of Arab Classical Music. As for his current personal projects, Issa is applying final touches on his new work Reef for kemenche and percussion. It will be released later in the Spring of 2004. http://home.uchicago.edu/~iboulos/ Contact Issa Boulos directly at iboulos@uchicago.edu. Palestine Middle East

Discography

Rif (Nawa Institute, 2007)
Al-Hallaj (Nawa Institute, 2008)
Being Peace (Nawa Institute, 2010)
Shams W Hawa (Nawa Institute, 2011)

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Artist Profiles: Marwan Abado

Marwan Abado

Marwan Abado was born a Palestinian refugee in Beirut, Lebanon in 1967. As a child from Christian Palestinians he experienced as a child the fate of living the diaspora.

In 1985 Abado moved to Austria to continue his studies with the Iraqi ud virtuoso Asim Chalabi. In Vienna he found a new home as a musician, singer, composer and poet.

Abado’s instrument, the ud (the Middle Eastern lute) is essential in Arabic music .

Abado’s music has its roots in the classical Arabic music tradition of the taqsim, which is not restricted to particular rhythms, but which springs from the inner impulses of the musician.

On the one hand Abado’s melodies and musical concepts take their power from the deep relatedness to his roots. He is conscious about the rich Arabic tradition which he is musically living not only quoting. Otherwise Abado easily steps across the border between East and West by seeking interaction with European traditions and musicians. This results in Abado’s specific sound: cosmopolitan, borderless music.

Contemporary poetry and prose often provide the inspiration for Abado’s lyrics; thought-provoking commentary on the political realities of the Palestinians is interwoven through his texts.

In 2000 he formed a duo with Peter Rosmanith. Apart from this, his artistic work with musicians like Otto Lechner, Timna Brauer, Roland Neuwirth, Allegre Correa, Krzystof Dobrek, Aliosha Biz, Franz Hautzinger and many other Austrian and international musicians and poets show his artistic openness.

His creative output includes also film and theater music as well as concepts for cultural institutions and lectures about Arabic music.

Discography:

Marakeb (Iris, 2002)
Kabila (Iris)
Nard (2009)
Zugvögel (2010)
Raushana (2012)
Masaar Hubb “Path of Love” (Gramola, 2015)

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Artist Profiles: Reem Kelani

Reem Kelani – Photo by Phillip Ryalls

 

Reem Kelani was born in Manchester, in the UK and brought up in Kuwait. Reem’s father comes from Ya’bad near Jenin and her mother from Nazareth in Galilee. Reem enjoyed early exposure to all sorts of music. She learned the piano and listened to the Jazz standards her father used to sing at home. She studied the Quran as a child and used to hear the calls to prayer about her in Kuwait. Life in the Diaspora also meant that she was exposed to the music of the Arabian Peninsula, Iran East Africa, the Levant and Egypt. It was while at a family wedding in the Galilee that Reem as a child was first taken by Palestinian music.

Reem has been recording and collating folk songs from women in her maternal home of Nazareth, in the refugee camps of Palestine and Lebanon and elsewhere in the Diaspora.

Now considered as one of the foremost researchers and performers of Palestinian music Reem Kelani recorded Sprinting Gazelle – Palestinian Songs from the Motherland and the Diaspora. Some of the songs on the CD are Reem’s research and arrangement of traditional (and some very old) Palestinian songs; the others are her own musical settings of popular and resistance poetry by Mahmoud Darwish, Salma Khadra, Jayyusi Rashid Husain and Mahmoud Salim al-Hout.

Reem’s band includes a Jazz rhythm section comprising Zoe Rahman on piano, Idris Rahman on tenor saxophone clarinet and bass clarinet, Oli Hayhurst on double bass and Patrick Illingworth on drums. Egyptian violinist Samy Bishai and Iranian percussionist Fariborz Kiani complete the line-up.

Other artists on Sprinting Gazelle D include: Armenian duduk player Tigran Aleksanyan (playing the ancient and haunting Palestinian double-clarinet the yarghul); film-composer Dirk Campbell (who lends his string arrangements and nay playing); Salah Dawson Miller (on Arabic percussion); Paul Clarvis (on drums and frame drums) and Sonia Slany with her Solid Strings Quartet.

Reem Kelani sees her project as a means of demonstrating the fact of the Palestinians’ existence now and in the past. She views her musical journey as both historical and political personal and collective. She seeks to point out suffering and to highlight celebration. Her journey is a musical one through the written and oral history of a people who are proud of their collective sense of poetry stories music and existence. This is manifested in the detailed accompanying booklet which includes introductory notes for each song lyrics in Arabic and English and a comprehensive glossary of musical and cultural terms.

Leon Rosselson of Fuse Records offered his advice and his record label. This gave Reem the opportunity to produce the CD herself thus maintaining her musical and cultural integrity and her independence. Raising the necessary funds for the project was by no means easy but with the help of friends, family and supporters the CD was finally made. It took two years in the process and is the culmination of more than 2 years of effort and hope.

Discography:

Sprinting Gazelle – Palestinian Songs from the Motherland and the Diaspora (2006)

Reem Kelani: Live at the Tabernacle (2016)

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