Simon Shaheen, one of the most significant Arab musicians, performers, and composers of his generation, performs at Meany Hall at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 4. Tickets are $30 ($27 for UW employees and $20 for students). Tickets may be purchased by phone at 206-543-4880, online or in person at the UW Arts Ticket Office.
Shaheens 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.
Most recently, Shaheen has focused much of his energies 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.
While Qantara has been the focus of Shaheen’s recent attention, he continues to also lead the Near Eastern Music Ensemble, which remains active performing more traditional concerts in museums and art centers and participates in Shaheen’s Arab Music Retreat. In 2009, Simon directed the multi-faceted orchestral program Aswat (Voices)-Celebrating the Golden Age of Arab Music & Cinema, in association with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the University Musical Society at the University of Michigan.
As a composer, Shaheen has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, Meet the Composer, the Jerome Foundation, Continental Harmony, and Yellow Springs Institute.
In the 1990s he released four albums of his own: Saltanah,Turath, Taqasim, and Simon Shaheen: The Music of Mohamed Abdel Wahab, while also contributing cuts to producer Bill Laswell’s fusion collective, Hallucination Engine. He 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.
In addition to performing with his two bands, Shaheen tours as a solo artist internationally and as a lecturer throughout the academic world promoting awareness to Arab music through numerous lecture and workshop presentations.