Award-winning Simon Shaheen to perform, lecture on Arab music

World-renowned performer and composer Simon Shaheen will offer a lecture on Arabic music and a performance by the Simon Shaheen Quartet in late October. The Palestinian-American will speak on “Arabic Music” at 5 p.m. Oct. 20 in 132 Goldwin Smith Hall, and the Quartet will perform at 7 p.m. Oct. 21 in the Rhodes-Rawlings Auditorium in Klarman Hall. Both events are free and open to the public.

“Simon Shaheen is widely celebrated as a virtuoso violinist and oud player, incomparably creative composer and master teacher of Arab music. His brilliant interpretation of the Arabic music and his synthesis of it with other musical tradition are vehicles for engaging audiences with the beauty of Arabic culture,” said event host Ross Brann, the Milton Konvitz Professor of Judeo-Islamic Studies in the College of Arts & Sciences.

This will be Shaheen’s fifth visit to Cornell; the Department of Near Eastern Studies has hosted him and his ensemble at Cornell on four previous occasions and he was invited by former President David Skorton to play at his inauguration. “We thought It was high time to invite the Cornell community to learn from and listen to Mr. Shaheen again,” said Brann.

The Oct. 20 lecture will focus on four components that constitute Arab music in the Eastern Basin of the Mediterranean Sea, with concentration on Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Iraq. Shaheen will offer an introduction to the features of the “maqam,” melodic mode and the “Iqa,” rhythmic mode used in Arab instrumental and vocal music; Arab musical instruments used in classical and rural settings; Arab musical forms; “zakhrafat,” the art of melodic embellishment; and “taqasim,” the art of improvisation.

At the Oct. 21 concert, Shaheen will offer a performance of Arabic music, playing violin and oud. The other members of the Simon Shaheen Quartet -- Firas Zreik, Tariq Rantisi and Rami Abuolaya – will play numerous instruments, including the qanun and ney.

Shaheen, a professor of music at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, has received international acclaim as a virtuoso on the oud and violin, playing traditional Arabic music as well as jazz and Western classical styles. His concert credits range across the world’s greatest venues, including Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Cairo’s Opera House, Theatre de la Ville in Beirut and Belgium’s Le Palais des Arts. His album “Blue Flame,” recorded with his group Qantara, has been nominated for eleven Grammy Awards.

A composer as well as a performer, Shaheen has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, Meet the Composer and the Library of Congress, among others. His theatrical repertoire includes “Majnun Layla,” performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., and The Museum of Natural History in New York City.
His many honors include the National Heritage Award, the United Nations Outstanding Artistic Contribution Award, New Jersey and New York State awards and the Library of Congress Recording of the Year.

Shaheen’s visit and concert are sponsored by the Department of Near Eastern Studies (A&S) with principal support from the Office of the Provost and co-sponsored by Department of Music and the Society for the Humanities (A&S) and the Arab Students Association.

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