Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Simon Shaheen Residency begins today at Duke

Oud and violin virtuoso Simon Shaheen, a seminal composer and performer of Arab music and world fusion, begins a brief artist residency at Duke this week. The public is invited to welcome Shaheen and members of his ASWAT Orchestra at a free reception this evening (Tues., 3/3) at 8 p.m. in the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture.

On Wednesday (3/4) from 6-7:30 p.m., Page Auditorium will be open to the public for an open rehearsal of Shaheen's ensemble.

Duke Performances presents an 8 p.m. concert Thursday (3/5) in Page, where Shaheen will present the world premiere of "ASWAT (Voices): Celebrating the Golden Age of Arab Music," with featured vocalists Ibrahim Azzam, Sonia M'Barek, Khalil Abonula and Rima Khcheich.

Shaheen's massive new choral piece, backed by a 12-15 piece classical Arab orchestra, will travel from Duke directly to Washington D.C., where its performance is already sold out as part of the Kennedy Center's month-long festival "Arabesque: Arts of the Arab World."

The 53-year-old Shaheen has been called "one of the most dynamic musical links between the Arab world and the West." From a Palestinian musical family, he studied Western classical music in Haifa and the Academy of Music in Jerusalem, where he also taught. He entered the New York music scene when he came to the U.S. in 1980 to begin graduate studies at Columbia and the Manhattan School of Music. In the '90s, he founded his own classical ensemble of Arab music, NEME (Near Eastern Music Ensemble) and recorded several albums. In 2000, he saw the need for a thoughtful approach to world fusion, and created the jazz and Arab music ensemble Qantara (which translates as "arch").

As Shaheen told Afropop Worldwide at that time:

"I've tried to come up with a formula that is original, interesting musically, but not harming the roots. So the qantara is a symbol of something that holds different things together, and when you go through it, you don't know what to expect inside. It's like a new world."


More info:
Duke Performances Website
Simon Shaheen: Artist's Website

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