Eleven-time, Grammy-nominated composer Simon Shaheen and his rhythmically exciting quintet Qantara will be in concert for one night only on Friday, Nov. 9, at 7:30 p.m., in the Center Stage Theater as part of the Performing Arts and Humankind Series at West Shore Community College.
Shaheen, one of the most significant Arab musicians, performers and composers of his generation, is an internationally acclaimed interpreter of traditional Arabic sounds and his soaring technique, melodic ingenuity and unparalleled grace have put him at the forefront of contemporary Arabic music.
For this West Michigan performance, Shaheen will dazzle his listeners as he leads an ensemble of musicians through traditional Arabic repertoire as he reflects on the music’s legacy.
Performed on traditional instruments such as the buzuq, oud and qanun, Shaheen deftly leaps from traditional Arabic sounds to jazz and Western classical styles. His work incorporates and reflects a legacy of Arabic music, while it forges ahead to new frontiers, embracing many different styles in the process.
“During recent seasons, the Performing Arts Series has teamed up with the Humankind Series to introduce our region to internationally renowned ‘world artists’ like Colombian harpist Edmar Castaneda and Ghanaian dancer and percussionist Nani Agbeli. This year, from Palestine by way of New York City, we welcome Simon Shaheen, who is a world ambassador for Arabic music and he performs all over the globe,” says Ted Malt, professor of music studies and director of performing arts.
His unique contribution to the world of arts was recognized in 1994, when Shaheen was honored with the prestigious National Heritage Award at the White House.
A Palestinian, born in the village of Tarshiha in the Galilee, Shaheen’s childhood was steeped in music. His father, Hikmat Shaheen, was a professor of music and a master oud player. “Learning to play on the oud from my father was the most powerful influence in my musical life,” Shaheen recalls.
He began playing on the oud at the age of five, and a year later studying violin at the Conservatory for Western Classical Music in Jerusalem. “When I held and played these instruments, they felt like an extension of my arms.”
After graduating from the Academy of Music in Jerusalem in 1978, Shaheen was appointed its instructor of Arab music, performance, and theory. Two years later, he moved to New York City to complete his graduate studies in performance at the Manhattan School of Music, and later in performance and music education at Columbia University.
In 1982, Shaheen formed the Near Eastern Music Ensemble in New York, establishing a group that would perform the highest standard of traditional Arab music. This time also marked the beginning of Shaheen’s workshops and lecture/demonstrations in schools, colleges, and universities to educate the younger generation.
As a champion and guardian of Arab music, Shaheen still devotes almost 50 percent of his time to working with schools and universities, including Julliard, Columbia, Princeton, Brown, Harvard, Yale, University of California in San Diego, University of Michigan and many others.
His concert credits are a veritable compendium of the world’s greatest venues including Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Cairo’s Opera House, Theatre de la Ville in Beirut, and Belgium’s Le Palais des Arts.
In addition to performing with his two bands, Qantara and the Near Eastern Music Ensemble, Shaheen tours as a solo artist internationally and as a lecturer throughout the academic world promoting awareness to Arab music through numerous lecture and workshop presentations.
Shaheen’s ensemble will include Wanees Zarour (buzuq and oud), Firas Zreik (qanun), Alber Bassil (percussion), Hannah Viz, (cello).
“Key to Humankind’s programming is a combination of both intellectual learning and experiential activities. Music and the arts provide access points to what people in other parts of the world feel and think at a deep and entertaining level that facts and analysis don’t. To hear Simon Shaheen blend Arabic and Western sounds in new ways for our own times will be exciting,” said Dean of Arts and Sciences Brooke Portmann, one of the Humankind organizers.
For more information on this concert and to purchase general admission tickets, go to the college’s website at www.westshore.edu.
Customers can also call 231-843-5507, or stop by the box office located in Schoenherr Campus Center. Visa, Master Card, Discover credit cards are accepted.