Simon Shaheen

Palestine

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Simon Shaheen's bio

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Simon Shaheen is a Palestinian musician, composer, and performer.

He was born in the village of Tarshiha in the Galilee, in 1955. He was brought up in an artistic environment as his father was a professor of music and a master ‘Oud’ player. At the age of 5 years old, Simon started to play the ‘Oud’. One year later, he began learning to play the violin at the Conservatory for Western classical Music in Jerusalem.

In 1978, Simon graduated from the Academy of Music in Jerusalem. He was appointed to teach the Arab music in the same establishment. Two years later, he moved to the United States, more exactly to New York City to continue his graduate studies in performance at the Manhattan School of Music.

Later on, he also studied performance and music education at Columbia University. In 1982, Simon formed a musical ensemble ‘the Near Eastern Music Ensemble’ in New York. The group was to perform traditional Arab music. Simultaneously, he started giving lectures, demonstrations, and workshops in schools, colleges, and universities.

Since1994, Simon has produced ‘Mahrajan al-Fan’, an annual Arab Festival of Arts held in New York. Three years later, in 1997, he founded the Annual Arab Music Retreat, a one week long intensive program of Arab music studies, held each summer at Mount Holyoke. Later on, Simon founded ‘El Qantara’, a band that brings to life his vision of the fusion of Arab, jazz, western classical, and Latin American music.

The band made their first live recording debut on Mondo Melodia/ARK21’s “Historic live Recording of the Two Tenors and Qantara”, featuring tenors Wadi Al Safi and Sabah Fakhry. The disc included two instrumental cuts by Shaheen and Qantara. After that, the band released their full recording debut with ‘Blue flame’, compositions of ‘Al Qantara’ and ‘Dance Mediterranea’.

During 2003 and 2004, the band toured, playing concerts and festivals like WOMAD, USA, WOMAD, Sicily, the Newport Jazz Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival, Beiteddine Festival, New York’s Central Stage, Stern Grove International, and Chicago World Music Festival. In addition to performing with his two bands, ‘Qantara’ and ‘the Near Eastern Music Ensemble’, Shaheen tours as a solo artist internationally. He also devotes half of his time to working with schools and universities.

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