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Simon Shaheen

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Simon Shaheen
Shaheen in 1994
Background information
Born1955 (age 68–69)
Tarshiha, Upper Galilee, Israel
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Instrument(s)Oud, violin

Simon Shaheen (Arabic: سيمون شاهين, Hebrew: סימון שאהין; born Tarshiha, Upper Galilee, Israel, 1955) is a Palestinian-American oud and violin player and composer.[1][2][3]

At the age of 2, Shaheen moved with his family to Haifa, but spent most of the weekends in Tarshiha, an Arab village in Galilee. The Shaheen family is known for its musicality with music instructor and father Hikmat, oud-playing and instrument-making brother Najib, violinist and oud playing William, and singing sisters Laura and Rosette.[4][5][6]

Music career[edit]

Shaheen began playing the oud at 5, and the violin shortly thereafter.[1] He attended Tel Aviv University, earning degrees in Arabic literature and music performance.[7] He later pursued further studies at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1980 he emigrated to the United States to study music at the Manhattan School of Music and Columbia University, eventually becoming a U.S. citizen.[8][9]

He founded the Near Eastern Music Ensemble and organizes arts festivals and retreats.[8][10] Shaheen also heads the Arabic Music Retreat, held annually at Mt. Holyoke College's campus in Massachusetts which brings together a large faculty instructing Arabic music for a week and concludes with a concert.

Shaheen, a Catholic Arab, lives in New York City, where he leads an Arabic ensemble called Qantara which he formed.[11]

In 1994 he received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.[12][9]

In addition to his work in traditional and classical Arabic music, Shaheen has participated in many cross-cultural musical projects, including performing with producer Bill Laswell, Colombian singer Soraya, Henry Threadgill, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, and with Jewish klezmer musicians The Klezmatics.[13][14][15][16][17]

Select discography[edit]

  • 1990 – Music of Waheeb, Mango/Island/PolyGram
  • 1990 – The Music of Mohamed Abdel Wahab, Axiom/Island/PolyGram
  • 1992 – Turath (Heritage), CMP
  • 1993 – Taqasim: Art of Improvisation in Arabic Music
  • 1996 – Saltanah (with V. M. Bhatt), Water Lily Acoustics
  • 2001 – Blue Flame, Ark 21/Universal


  1. ^ a b "Simon Shaheen & Qantara 'Blue Flame'". Washington Post. June 21, 2001. Retrieved June 11, 2024.
  2. ^ Mitter, Siddhartha (October 10, 2008). "Simon Shaheen is an ambassador for traditional Arabic music". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on October 17, 2008. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
  3. ^ Koehler, Robert (September 10, 1993). "Humble Means, Rich Sounds * Masters from far-flung origins will play their simple instruments in North Hollywood. Los Angeles Festival: "HOME, PLACE and MEMORY", A Citywide Arts Fest". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
  4. ^ Rule, Sheila (November 7, 1994). "Ancient Oud Gets A Hearing In Brooklyn". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
  5. ^ Brinner, Benjamin (2009). Playing Across a Divide: Israeli-Palestinian Musical Encounters. Oxford University Press. p. 47, 58. ISBN 978-0-19-972113-9. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
  6. ^ Roberts, Nina (March 31, 2009). "He Plays Arab Music, Makes and Fixes Ouds". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 11, 2024.
  7. ^ Rule, Sheila (October 29, 1994). "A Man and His Oud. How's That Again?". The New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
  8. ^ a b Bogdanov, Vladimir; Woodstra, Chris; Erlewine, Stephen Thomas (2001). All Music Guide: The Definitive Guide to Popular Music. Backbeat Books/All Media Guide. p. 924. ISBN 978-0-87930-627-4. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
  9. ^ a b Benson, Kathleen; Kayal, Philip M. (2002). A Community of Many Worlds: Arab Americans in New York City. Syracuse University Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-8156-0739-7. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
  10. ^ Kayyali, Randa A. (January 2006). The Arab Americans. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 124. ISBN 978-0-313-33219-7. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
  11. ^ "Turning His Dreams Into Achievements". Philadelphia Inquirer. April 4, 1999. Archived from the original on June 8, 2011.
  12. ^ Rule, Sheila (November 7, 1994). "Ancient Oud Gets A Hearing In Brooklyn". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved February 3, 2011 – via Pqasb.pqarchiver.com.
  13. ^ Pareles, Jon (February 13, 1993). "Review/Music; Klezmer Meets Arabic Tradition". The New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
  14. ^ "Live at the JM!". New York Magazine. New York Media, LLC. March 11, 1996. p. 23. ISSN 0028-7369. Retrieved June 11, 2024.
  15. ^ Wald, Elijah (2007). Global Minstrels: Voices of World Music. Routledge. p. 230. ISBN 978-0-415-97930-6. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
  16. ^ Chuy Varela, Special to The Chronicle (May 16, 2006). "APPRECIATION / Soraya lost battle with cancer, but raised awareness". Sfgate.com. Retrieved June 11, 2024.
  17. ^ Broughton, Simon; Ellingham, Mark; Trillo, Richard (2000). World Music: Latin and North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific. Rough Guides. p. 110. ISBN 978-1-85828-636-5. Retrieved August 4, 2013.

External links[edit]