Dalal Abu Amneh
Dalal Abu Amneh is a renowned Palestinian singer who performs Arab classical and folk music. Born in Nazareth, Abu Amneh came to national attention for her performances of the songs of the iconic Egyptian singer, Umm Kulthum. She later won greater fame for her ability to perform a wide variety of Arab musical styles, ranging from the classical tarab, Andalusian muwashshahat, and Sufi mystical repertoire. Her songs have been on Arab radio Top 10 lists and been selected for international music contests. She has appeared often on Arab TV and in festivals around the world. Throughout her career, Abu Amneh has focused on Palestinian culture and identity, including her most recent live show Ya Sitti, and has released two CDs, An Balady and Kareem Ya Ramadan. Besides her musical career, Abu Amneh is completing a doctorate in Neuroscience in the Faculty of Medicine at Technion University in Haifa.
Oumeima El Khalil and Rolando Morales-Matos
Oumeima El Khalil is a Lebanese singer who has performed across the world for decades, sharing her passion for music with a diverse fan base. Oumeima began singing at the age of 7, and toured the US with the legendary Marcel Khalife as a teenager. Oumeima continues to collaborate with Marcel Khalife on several of his albums and began her solo career in 1994 with the breakthrough record, “Khallini Ghannilak”. Her songs are written by renowned Arab poets such as Mahmoud Darwish, Badr Shakir El Sayyab, Mohamad El Abdallah. Oumeima is a devoted wife and mother and works with her husband, the musician Hani Siblini, recording and touring the world. She released her 4th solo album, “Zaman”, in spring 2013. Her 5th Album “Matar,”a classical endeavor composed By Abdallah El Masri, recorded with The State Symphony Cappella of Russia (conducted by Valery Polyansky), was released in March 2014.
Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Rolando Morales-Matos began his musical studies at the prestigious performing-arts high school Escuela Libre de Música. He received his B.F.A. in music from Carnegie Mellon University, his M.A. from Duquesne University, and a Certificate of Professional Studies from Temple University. He is a percussionist and assistant conductor with Disney’s Lion King and performs and records regularly in New York City with various Latin jazz groups and chamber orchestras. He has recorded soundtracks for the films Failure to Launch and The Pink Panther and appears playing onscreen in the Disney movie Enchanted. Rolando is a member of Ron Carter Foursight Jazz Quartet and is an extra percussionist with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra. His career has taken him all over the world, from Spain to New Zealand, where he has held principal timpani and percussion positions with state orchestras. He is the recipient of the 2006 Drum Magazine world beat percussionist-of-the-year award. Rolando also teaches at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City, and joined the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music in 2001.
Ayman Alalao and Kinan Abou-afach
Ayman Alalao is a visual artist and designer with over seven years experience in the design field, focused on web and interactive projects. Born and raised in Damascus, Syria, Ayman studied Visual Communication at Damascus University School of Fine Arts and in May 2011 completed his Master of Science in Digital Design at Philadelphia University.
Kinan Abou-afach is a Syrian-born cellist and composer. Abou-afach began his musical studies at the age of seven and received his first degree in cello and oud performance in the music preparatory program of the Arabic Institute of Music in Damascus. He completed a Bachelors degree in cello performance with a minor in oud performance from the Higher Institute of Music in Damascus. He has performed as a soloist with various orchestras in the Arab region and participated in master-classes with Francoise Baduell, Federico Romano, Yo-Yo Ma, and members of Alban Berg Quartet. Abou-afach is also an active composer, writing music influenced by Eastern and Western traditions. Some of his film scores include original soundtracks “The Long Night” by Hatem Ali; “Where We Stood” by Blake Beckstrom; and for the Theater/Dance “Jondo Portraits” by choreographer Wendy Clinard. Most recently he composed “Roads to Damascus,” a 52-minute composition commissioned by Al-Bustan and premiered in February 2013 at the Arab Music Concert Series in Philadelphia. He is a recipient of the prestigious 2013 Pew Fellowship in the Arts, which is awarded each year to 12 Philadelphia artists who demonstrate exemplary talent.
Naomi Shihab Nye
Naomi Shihab Nye is an acclaimed Palestinian-American poet, novelist, teacher and anthologist. A self-described “wandering poet,” Ms. Nye has spent more than thirty years traveling across America and around the world, leading writing workshops that inspire children and adults alike. Born in the U.S. to a Palestinian father and American mother, her writings reflect the intricacies of living as a product of two worlds. Throughout the twenty volumes that she has written or edited for readers of all ages, Ms. Nye’s work emphasizes her desire to build bridges for peace in the midst of dissonance and diversity. Her poetry and prose, which places special emphasis on the nuances of the “ordinary,” has been featured on National Public Radio, PBS, and literary magazines across the country. Ms. Nye has been recognized as a Guggenheim Fellow, a Witter Bynner Fellow at Library of Congress, and a visiting professor of creative writing at universities across the U.S. She has received numerous coveted poetry prizes in praise of her writing. Most notably, in 2001, her work garnered national attention when a book of poems, 19 Varieties of Gazelle, was named as a finalist for the prestigious National Book Award.
Marcel Khalife and Abeer Nehme
Marcel Khalife is an internationally acclaimed Lebanese composer, oud master, and singer. Born in Amicht, Lebanon in 1950, Khalife began his music career studying the oud at the National Academy of Music in Beirut. He garnered attention early in his career in the Middle East and abroad for shining light on the oud as a solo performance instrument. In 1976, he formed the Al Mayadeen Ensemble and began to experiment synthesizing Arabic classical modes with contemporary Western instrumentation, and integrating poetry in his musical repertoire. Khalife is distinguished by his dedication to the ideals of humanism and music’s ability to impart these ideals. This humanism has been a driving force of his music, which crosses the barriers of nationalism, religion, and culture. Moreover, Khalife’s music has the ability to give voice to those who have none. As he notes: “Nothing justifies our art other than to speak for those who cannot speak. This is the cause for which we dedicated our efforts, and the cause that endorsed our voices. We only wished to take it as far as we can, and vowed to release our work as songs of love for, and unity with, the victims of persecution everywhere.” In 2005, Khalife was named UNESCO Artist for Peace for his achievements as an artist and humanitarian. In 2008, he was named the music director and resident composer of the newly formed Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra.
Abeer Nehme is an internationally renowned Lebanese singer versed in a variety of performance styles. She has studied the theories of Arabic, Western, and Aramaic and Byzantine religious music and obtained a Master’s degree of Art in Musicology from the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik – USEK, as well as a diploma with high distinction in advanced traditional Arab music performance. Her repertoire includes traditional Arabic Tarab and Middle Eastern folk songs, Ancient Syriac and Maronite chants, Opera, and Western Music. She sings in more than 14 different languages. Nehme has performed at prominent music festivals around the world, including “Festival Les Orientales” in Paris, the International Musical Festival and Conference at Royaumont, the “Festival de Músicas Sagradas de Évora” in Portugal, and the 19th Bosra International Festival in Syria. Since 2012, Nehme works on the TV documentary series titled “Ethnopholia,” produced by Al Mayadeen TV, in which she travels worldwide, searching for the roots and origins of folk music. The show is currently in its second season.
Mohsen Namjoo is an Iranian artist, songwriter, singer, music scholar and setar (traditional Persian lute) player based in New York. Born in 1976 in Torbat-e Jam, Iran, Namjoo began his musical training at the age of twelve, studying under Nasrollah Nasehpoor until the age of eighteen. In 1994 Namjoo began to study Theater and Music at the University of Tehran, where he was trained under Alireza Mashayekhi, Azin Movahed and other masters. Namjoo also studied Iranian folk music under Haj Ghorbane Soleimani. His unique music style resembles a patchwork of Persian classical poetry of Hafez, Rumi or Saadi with western music, namely rock, blues, and jazz. Hailed as “the Bob Dylan of Iran” by the New York Times, Mohsen Namjoo is a visionary artist who speaks for and touches the souls of today’s youth. Seamlessly blending the Classical with the Modern, the ancient with the current, Mohsen Namjoo is a true musical maverick.
Joan Baz is an artist and creative director. Born in Beirut, she completed her B.A. in Graphic Design at the Lebanese American University, then pursued a Masters degree in digital direction at Supinfocom, an animation school in Valenciennes, France. After her studies, she worked in production studios in Barcelona, Zagreb, Paris, and London. She now lives in Beirut where she works as a freelance art director and director of short films, television commercials, and publications. She contributes as an art director and illustrator for Outpost magazine. Her keen interest in working with video and sound led her to collaborate with Marion Petegnief and develop “Kana Wa Akhawatouha,” a live visual mapping project that is currently touring internationally with the electronic music group Hello Psychaleppo! Ms. Baz is one of the founders of the multidisciplinary collective “Waraq” which explores different forms of visual narration. The collective was established as an NGO with a cultural space called “Beit Waraq” in 2012. This space has become a cultural hub in Beirut, hosting monthly workshops, screenings, and events. Baz’ recent book titled “I Went Looking for Palestine But I Found…” was published in 2014 with Dar Onboz, a notable publishing house of Arab language books for children and adults founded by Nadine Touma.
Rolando Morales-Matos, born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, began his musical studies at the prestigious performing-arts high school Escuela Libre de Música. He received his B.F.A. in music from Carnegie Mellon University, his M.A. from Duquesne University, and a Certificate of Professional Studies from Temple University. He is a percussionist and assistant conductor with Disney’s Lion King and performs and records regularly in New York City with various Latin jazz groups and chamber orchestras. He has recorded soundtracks for the films Failure to Launch and The Pink Panther and appears playing onscreen in the Disney movie Enchanted. Morales-Matos is a member of Ron Carter Foursight Jazz Quartet and is an extra percussionist with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra. His career has taken him all over the world, from Spain to New Zealand, where he has held principal timpani and percussion positions with state orchestras. He is the recipient of the 2006 Drum Magazine world beat percussionist-of-the-year award. Morales-Matos, who also teaches at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City, joined the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music in 2001.
Fathy Salama is a Grammy and BBC Award-winning composer and pianist. His music is rooted in the music of the Golden Age of Arab music in Egypt, as well as Egyptian folk music. As a pianist, Salama was exposed to Western compositions from an early age. He studied the music of Bartok and Tchaikovsky among others. However, it was Jazz that inspired him to develop a new musical form and harmonic structure in Arab music. He studied Jazz with Barry Harris, Hal Galper, Milk Osman, Pat Patricick and Sun Ra. Salama composed and arranged the Grammy Award winning album “Egypt” by Youssu Ndour.
The Narcicyst is an Iraqi-Canadian musician/actor/multimedia artist who has presented his work at TedEx, The Dubai International Film Festival, The Melbourne Festival and the Montreal International Jazz Festival, among other forums. He has performed across the Middle East, Europe and North America sharing the stage with hip-hop’s elite, rocking festivals, classrooms, and cinema screens worldwide.
Born in Haifa, Shawqi Kassis grew up in the village of Rama and came to the US at the age of 32 after receiving his Ph.D. in Microbiology from Tel-Aviv University in 1979. He worked as Visiting Fellow and Visiting Associate in the Neurology Institute at the National Institute of Health from 1980 to 1987. This was followed by employment at Glaxo SmithKline for the remainder of his technical career where he worked as a Senior Investigator/Lab Chief in Discovery Research and Research & Development. During this period Dr. Kassis published over 45 biomedical articles in refereed journals in the fields of biochemistry, cell biology and pharmacology. He has presented over 35 abstracts in international and national scientific meetings and has four US and European patents in the field of microbiology.
After a productive career, Kassis dedicated himself upon retirement to his passion, the Arabic language, both through teaching and writing. In 2003, he founded and taught at the Arabic and Hebrew language programs at Drexel University. Currently, Kassis is a writer working on several literary projects, the first of which is the historical fiction book he published last year, loosely based on his life growing up in Palestine-Israel, “Haifa is Not Cordoba.”
Jason Vieaux, “among the elite of today’s classical guitarists” (Gramophone), is the classical guitarist that goes beyond the classical. He has earned a reputation for putting his expressive gifts and virtuosity at the service of a remarkably wide range of music. Vieaux has performed as concerto soloist with over 50 orchestras, including Cleveland, San Diego, Ft. Worth, Santa Fe, Charlotte, Buffalo, Grand Rapids, Kitchener-Waterloo, Richmond, IRIS Chamber, Chautauqua Festival, and Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. In 2011, Jason Vieaux co-founded the Guitar Department at The Curtis Institute of Music with guitarist David Starobin, while continuing to head of the Guitar Department of the Cleveland Institute of Music.
Sonia M’Barek and Nathalie Handal
Born in Sfax, Tunisia, Sonia M’Barek first performed to a live audience at the age of nine and was nationally recognized on TV in Tunis when she was twelve. Attending the national conservatory of music in Tunis, she graduated with a degree in Arab music in 1986. After her degree, she spent most of her time singing in musical theater productions such as Asker Ellil, Ete 61, and Didon, as well as the sound tracks for the film The Dance of Fire. In 2005, she was nominated by the Ministry of Culture in Tunisia to serve as the chair of the National Festival of Tunisian Music. She has performed in France, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Egypt, and Lebanon, Oman, and various cities within the U.S. Her recent CD’s include Tir El Miniar, Romances, Hommage A Federico Garcia Lorca, and Wajd.
Nathalie Handal– Described as “a Renaissance figure,” Pulitzer Prize winner Yusef Kumunyakaa writes of Nathalie Handal, “This cosmopolitan voice belongs to the human family, and it luxuriates in crossing necessary borders… One of the most important voices of her generation.” She is the author of numerous books, most recently Poet in Andalucía, which Alice Walker lauds as “poems of depth and weight and the sorrowing song of longing and resolve”; and Love and Strange Horses, winner of the 2011 Gold Medal Independent Publisher Book Award, which The New York Times says is “a book that trembles with belonging (and longing).” Her most recent plays have been produced at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Bush Theatre and Westminster Abbey, London. Her work has appeared in Vanity Fair, Guernica Magazine, The Guardian, The Nation, Virginia Quarterly Review, and she writes the literary travel column “The City and the Writer” for Words without Borders. Handal is a Lannan Foundation Fellow, winner of the Alejo Zuloaga Order in Literature, and Honored Finalist for the Gift of Freedom Award, among other honors.
Rima Khcheich started her singing career at the age of eight as a soloist at the Beirut Oriental Troupe for Arabic Music where she performed classical Arabic songs from 1984 till 1997. A graduate of the Lebanese American University in Beirut and the National Conservatory of Music, Khcheich mastered different styles of singing, most notably Muwashashat and Adwar, and built her repertoire excelling in the performance of songs of the Arab world’s most famous composers. She taught voice at the Lebanese National Conservatory of Music for 12 years and leads an Arabic Music class at the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese American University since 2010. Khcheich travels on a yearly basis to Mount Holyoke University in Massachusetts where she takes part as a voice instructor in “The Arabic Music Retreat” program directed by Simon Shaheen. Her career took a decisive turn in 2001 when she started a new musical experience presenting classical Arabic songs with jazz arrangements accompanied by Dutch jazz musicians playing sax, guitar, double bass and drums. Khcheich has performed live throughout the Middle East (Cairo Opera House, Jerash Festival, Damascus Opera House), Europe (North Sea Jazz Festival) and the USA (Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Kimmel Center). Her professional collaborations include working with Simon Shaheen, Toufic Farroukh, Ziad Rahbani, Rabih Mroué and Issam Hajal. Khcheich has released four albums: Orient Express (2001), Yalalalli (2006), Falak (2008), and Min Sihr Ouyounak (2012).
Al-Bustan is pleased to present Rima Khcheich as a guest soloist in the 2012-13 season of the Arab Music Concert Series.
Born in Kamechli, Syria Kevork Mourad is a visual artist of Armenian origin. After his secondary education in Syria, he studied at the Yerevan Institute of Fine Arts in Armenia where he received his MFA in 1996. He came to the United States shortly after where he has performed and exhibited widely. Early on in his career, he developed a technique of spontaneous painting in which he shares the stage with musicians, his art created in counterpoint to their music. He has collaborated with a wide range of musicians, including Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, Kinan Azmeh, Ezequiel Viñao, Tambuco, Song Fusion, Mari Kimura, Ken Ueno, Liubo Borissov, Eve Beglarian, Rami Khalife, Maya Trio, SYOTOS, and Brooklyn Rider, among others. Mourad has performed and exhibited his paintings and works on paper in museums and concert halls around the world, including the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Tenri Center, Angel Orensantz, 92nd St. Y, Cooper Union, Rhode Island School of Design, Harvard University, Nara Museum in Japan, Rubin Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara, Chicago Institute of Art, Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Juilliard’s “Beyond the Machine” Festival, Chelsea Museum of Art, the City University of New York, the American Museum of Natural History, Lincoln Center, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Examples of Mourad’s artwork and live performances can be seen on his website.
As one of Turkey’s leading clarinetists, Hüsnü Şenlendirici is deeply rooted in his Anatolian heritage, particularly his Aegean homeland’s musical traditions. His immersion in the classical music repertoire of Turkey directly relates to classical Arab music of Egypt and the Levant, which has its roots in Turkish classical music. His 2005 debut solo release ‘The Joy of Clarinet’ broke records in Turkey and afforded him the opportunity to perform internationally. In 2007 Senlendirci formed The Taksim Trio project with virtuosos Aytaç Doğan on qanun and İsmail Tuncbilek on baglama. Rooted in improvisation, The Trio captivated the international world music scene with live performances and the release of their Taksim Trio album, which was voted best album of the year in Turkey in 2007. Senlendirici collaborated with Trio Chios, a Greek band from Chios Island to release “Both Sides of the Aegean” in 2010, featuring common melodies of Greek and Turkish cultures from both sides of the Aegean Sea. Senlendirici’s most recent solo album Husn-u Hicaz was released in late 2011.
Al-Bustan is pleased to present Hüsnü Şenlendirici as a guest soloist in the 2012-13 season of the Arab Music Concert Series.
Born in Casablanca, Morocco, Karima Skalli began singing at a young age. She studied classical Arabic singing at the Marrakesh Conservatory and after graduating won a national award of excellence in Arab singing. Her strength as a singer lies not only in her beautiful voice, but also in her mastery of a diverse range of music. She is an accomplished Arab vocalist, excelling in the repertoire of Arab vocal icons Umm Kulthoum and Asmahan, as well as the traditional music of Morocco and Andalusia. She is equally at ease performing music of the Sufi tradition. Her album Wasla successfully revived the wasla form of music (wasla meaning “that which links”). Skalli has collaborated with acclaimed Moroccan oud player and composer Said Chrabi and Iraqi oud virtuoso Naseer Chama on many occasions and worked with Lebanese composer/musician Marcel Khalife to present a concert honoring poet Mahmoud Darwish. She has performed internationally and at prestigious Arab music festivals from the Opera House in Cairo to the Jarash Festival in Jordan and Carthage Festival in Tunisia.
Al-Bustan is pleased to present Karima Skalli as a guest soloist in the 2012-13 season of the Arab Music Concert Series.
Born in Sfax, Tunisia, Sonia M’barek first performed to a live audience at the age of nine and was nationally recognized on TV in Tunis when she was twelve. Attending the national conservatory of music in Tunis, she graduated with a degree in Arab music in 1986. After her degree, she spent most of her time singing in musical theater productions such as Asker Ellil, Ete 61, and Didon, as well as the sound tracks for the film The Dance of Fire. Working with Tunisian oud players, she has presented more than thirty concerts of classical Arab music in a performance tour called Tarab. In 1999, after recording Takht, a CD which was widely distributed in Europe, the United States, and Japan, M’Barek became internationally recognized and began teaching and participating in global conferences, workshops, and master classes showcasing her keen ability with Arabic singing. In 2005, she was nominated by the Ministry of Culture in Tunisia to serve as the chair of the National Festival of Tunisian Music. She has performed in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Egypt, and Lebanon, including a tour in 2009 with Simon Shaheen at the Kennedy Center’s Arabesque Festival in Washington DC and other cities in the US.
Al-Bustan was pleased to host Sonia M’Barek for two concerts on March 23 and March 25, 2012 as part of the Arab Music Concert Series 2011-12 season.
KAREEM ROUSTOM is an Emmy nominated composer who has composed music for film, television, concert halls, and album projects. Born in Syria, he has written the scores for many acclaimed films including Budrus and Amreeka. His score for the PBS documentary “The Mosque in Morgantown” earned him an Emmy nomination in the 31st Annual News & Documentary Emmy awards. In June 2010 Roustom was awarded a fellowship to the prestigious Sundance Film Composers Lab held annually at the Sundance Institute. As a concert composer, Roustom has been commissioned by groups such as the Philadelphia Orchestra, The Boston Children’s Chorus, and the Damascus Festival Chamber Ensemble, among others.
Al-Bustan was pleased to present the works of Kareem Roustom in February 2012, the fourth concert of the Arab Music Concert Series 2011-12 season.
Virtuoso flutist MARON KHOURY was appointed to the second flute position with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York City at age 20. He started playing the flute at the age of 11; three years later, he was admitted to the Curtis Institute of Music to study with renowned flutist Jeffrey Khaner from 2005 to 2009. Maron has performed under the direction of Maestro James Levine, Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim, Otto Werner Mueller, and Christoph Eschenbach among many others. Prior to enrollment at Curtis, he studied with Eyal Ein-Habar and Uri Shoham (Israel Philharmonic), Sara Andon (Idyllwild Arts Academy), and David Shostak (Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra). Maron is a recipient of several grants from the Curtis Institute of Music and the Charles M. Kanev Memorial Fellowship. In addition, he is a winner of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation Scholarship and the Schoen Fellowship Grant in honor of Charlotte White.
Al-Bustan presented Maron Khoury in An Evening of Western and Arab Classical Music in April 2011 and in the Arab Music Concert Series 2011-12 season finale in April 2012.
SUHEIR HAMMAD is a Palestinian-American poet and author. Born in Amman, Jordan to Palestinian refugee parents, she emigrated with her family to Brooklyn, New York City when she was five years old. She attended Hunter College where she won the Audre Lorde Writing Award for her poetry. Hammad’s publications include ZaatarDiva; Born Palestinian, Born Black; Drops of This Story; and breaking poems which received in 2009 the American Book Award and the Arab-American Book Award. Hammad has also received a Morris Center for Healing Poetry Award, a New York Mills Artist Residency, and a Van Lier Fellowship. Her work has been widely anthologized and also adapted for theater. Her produced plays include Blood Trinity and breaking letter(s), and she wrote the text for the multimedia performance Re-Orientalism. Hammad played a lead acting role in Salt of this Sea, a 2008 Cannes Film Festival Official Selection. She was an original writer and performer in the Tony-winning Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, and was recently an Artist-in-Residency at the NYU’s Asian/Pacific/American Institute.
YOUSSEF KASSAB, a Syrian-American, began learning the oud and studying voice at early age which he pursued at the Damascus Conservatory, specializing in qanun and the classical Arabic music vocal repertoire. He recorded and performed with the Syrian Radio Orchestra as a vocalist. Since moving to New York City in 1970, he has performed in concerts and festivals throughout the United States, Canada, and Central America. Kassab is one of the master performers of classical forms such as the Arabic Muwashshahat (classical Arabic/Andalusian vocal music), Al-Qudud Al-Halabiyya (traditional vocal repertoire from Aleppo, Syria), and 19th- and early 20th-century Egyptian vocal music.
Youssef Kassab performed a concert of music from the golden age of Syria and Egypt in October 2011, the first concert of the Arab Music Concert Series.
MARCEL KHALIFE is an internationally acclaimed Lebanese composer, oud master, and singer. Born in Amicht, Lebanon in 1950, Khalife began his music career studying the oud at the National Academy of Music in Beirut. He garnered attention early in his career in the Middle East and abroad for shining light on the oud as a solo performance instrument. In 1976, he formed the Al Mayadeen Ensemble and began to experiment synthesizing Arabic classical modes with contemporary Western instrumentation, and integrating poetry in his musical repertoire.
Khalife is distinguished by his dedication to the ideals of humanism and music’s ability to impart these ideals. This humanism has been a driving force of his music, which crosses the barriers of nationalism, religion, and culture. Moreover, Khalife’s music has the ability to give voice to those who have none. As he notes:
Nothing justifies our art other than to speak for those who cannot speak. This is the cause for which we dedicated our efforts, and the cause that endorsed our voices. We only wished to take it as far as we can, and vowed to release our work as songs of love for, and unity with, the victims of persecution everywhere.
In 2005, Khalife was named UNESCO Artist for Peace for his achievements as an artist and humanitarian. In 2008, he was named the music director and resident composer of the newly formed Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra.
Al-Bustan was pleased to host Marcel Khalife on March 13, 2011 in a concert honoring his work and longstanding contributions globally and in the Arab world.
Omar Offendum, Nizar Wattad, and Mark Gonzales
Al-Bustan was pleased to host these talented artists in Philadelphia on March 31, 2011 for a day of spoken word and hip hop.
OMAR OFFENDUM is a Syrian-American Hip-Hop Artist/Architect – born in Saudi Arabia, raised in Washington DC and living in Los Angeles. Known for taking audiences on a lyrical journey from the jasmine-tree-lined courtyards of Nizar Qabbani’s Damascene homes, to the flooded riverbanks of Langston Hughes’ Harlem Renaissance poems – Offendum has been featured on several major news outlets (BBC, Yahoo, ABC News, Aljazeera, Reuters, Vibe), helped raise thousands of dollars for various humanitarian relief organizations (PCRF, Islamic Relief, ANERA, KinderUSA), and toured the world to perform his ground-breaking music. He is currently hard at work promoting his 2010 solo release – affectionately dubbed “SyrianamericanA”
NIZAR WATTAD is a screenwriter and hip-hop artist, born in Palestine and raised in Tennessee. He writes feature films for Disney and Golden Globe-winning director Hany Abu-Assad. His musical endeavors include executive-producing the Arab-American hip-hop compilation Free the P and sold-out performances around the world. He earned a Bachelor’s in English from George Washington University in 2001 and a Master’s in Screenwriting from University of Southern California in 2006.
MARK GONZALES is an educator, teacher educator, poet and spoken word artist. With a Masters in Education from the University of California, Los Angeles, Gonzales works with educators and youth in curriculum and artistic development to create the communities we envision. One of the most engaging voices of a generation, Gonzales has appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry, Fox News, Mun2, NPR, and shared stages with literary, Hip Hop, and academic icons across the globe. The depth of his work can be seen in the diversity of his audience, as he has received acclaims from educators, senators, foster youth, former prisoners, and members of the United Nations. His tongue tangos between Brooklyn mothers and Baghdad sons, and he hums in the name of both. In 2008, he continued to break borders and build beauty by becoming the first Chicano spoken word artist to perform in Syria.
An internationally acclaimed Arab music performer, composer, instructor, and virtuoso of the oud and violin, SIMON SHAHEEN tours worldwide as a soloist and with his ensembles. His recordings have won him an international reputation as a leading Arab musician of his generation, receiving the prestigious National Heritage Award in 1994. Among these, Blue Flame brought his Arab-Jazz fusion international exposure, garnering eleven Grammy nominations. A master instructor in performance and theory, Shaheen is dedicated to teaching Arab music and passing on his knowledge to the younger generation. He is founder/director of the annual summer Arabic Music Retreat held at Mount Holyoke College, and has taught at Julliard, Columbia, Harvard, and Cornell, among others universities, as well as in Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan.
Shaheen presented Al-Bustan’s workshop for music teachers in November 2008 and in January 2009 led a series of master workshops with youth ensembles. In February 2009 he performed with the Shaheen Ensemble at the Kimmel Center. He returned in February 2010 for workshops and a competition, all of which culminated with a concert on April 25, 2010.
A. J. Racy
Dr. A.J. RACY is a performer, composer and Professor of Ethnomusicology at UCLA. Born in Lebanon, Racy is internationally recognized for his extraordinary musicianship and his numerous publications, including his award-winning book, Making Music in the Arab World: The Culture and Artistry of Tarab (Cambridge University Press, 2003). He is a master of many traditional instruments particularly the nay, a reed-flute, and the buzuq, a long-necked fretted lute. He has appeared in major U.S. theaters, such as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and the Hollywood Bowl and at international venues, including the Beiteddine Festival in Lebanon and the Commonwealth Institute in London. He has composed and performed for the Kronos Quartet and the Sacramento Symphony Orchestra, as well as for feature and documentary films. His CD releases include three Lyrichord albums, Ancient Egypt, Taqasim, and Mystical Legacies, and Caravan with Kronos Quartet.
Racy has inspired a generation of Western and Arab musicians to study and perform Middle Eastern musical traditions. Racy is the recipient of numerous honors and tributes from a variety of cultural institutions for his outstanding artistry and his continuous work toward greater intercultural understanding and cooperation.
Al-Bustan is pleased to have hosted Racy for a performance at Swarthmore College and a demonstration workshop at The Rotunda in March 2008.