Benefit Concert with Simon Shaheen
Saturday, September 17, 2011, 8:30 pm
We marked our coalition's 10th Annual National Organizers' Conference with a special benefit concert with world renowned violinist and oud player, Simon Shaheen!
All Souls Church
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 at the White House.
In the 1990s he released four albums of his own: Saltanah (Water Lily Acoustics), Turath (CMP), Taqasim (Lyrichord), and Simon Shaheen: The Music of Mohamed Abdel Wahab (Axiom), while also contributing cuts to producer Bill Laswell's fusion collective, Hallucination Engine (Island).
Shaheen 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 labyrinthian journey through the world of fusion music to discover the heart of the Middle East. The album has been nominated for eleven Grammy Awards, and the band's performances have been called "glorious."
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 Haifa. "When I held and played these instruments, they felt like an extension of my arms."
During the Clinton administration, Shaheen served on the Presidential Committee at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Recently, he was honored by Governor Corzine with the New Jersey Heritage Award and by Berklee College of Music in Boston for his many contributions to the advancement of international understanding, goodwill and education.
Early in 2009, Shaheen toured with his project, " Aswat," in the USA performing in twelve top concert halls. The tour included four leading traditional singers from the Arab World as well as an ensemble of twenty musicians. "Aswat" reflected on film music from the first half of the 20th century particularly in Egypt and Lebanon. He also has been touring and performing his oud concerto, which was commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and premiered in Detroit in October of 2008.
Shaheen founded the Annual Arabic Music Retreat in 1997. Held each summer at Mount Holyoke College, this weeklong intensive program of Arabic music studies draws participants from the U.S. and abroad. In Palestine, Shaheen conducts an annual weeklong music workshop designed for gifted children.
For the past six years, though, Shaheen has focused on Qantara. The band, whose name means arch in Arabic, brings to life Shaheen's vision for the unbridled fusion of Arab, jazz, Western classical, and Latin American music, a perfect alchemy for music to transcend the boundaries of genre and geography.
All proceeds directly support the work of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.