A question that I’m frequently asked is “what is the best music notation software for Arabic music?” Since it seems to be a perennial question, I thought I’d make a post to collect my thoughts on the question. Though not…Read more
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I play oud and guitar. My main interests have been Arabic music and jazz, sometimes separately and sometimes together. While my own projects are mostly focused on my original music, I maintain a deep love for the profound repertory and tradition of both the jazz and Arabic music communities and often play that music in various groups.
I live in Brooklyn NY, a place I’ve been connected to since I was a kid spending summers with my grandparents, who were from Greenpoint. Prior to moving here in 2003, I spent a decade in New Orleans. The deep musical history and culture there left an indelible mark on me as a musician, and continues to inspire me today—not just musically, but in my sense of how music is about communication and community. While playing guitar immersed in the jazz scene in New Orleans, the oud entered my life via various recordings and immediately I felt drawn to the rich expressiveness of Arabic music. After much searching, an opportunity arose to purchase and oud and I jumped in and started teaching myself to play from records. After a few years of exploring on my own, I heard through a friend about a music retreat led by one of the greatest oud players in the world, Simon Shaheen. Hearing Simon play the oud on recordings had been awe-inspiring and transformed my appreciation for what the oud was capable of. There was no way I could pass up an chance too study with the master himself, but I couldn't have imagined how much that decision would change my life and how central the Arabic music community would become in my musical journey.
Simon and his brothers Najib and William encouraged my interest and were extremely generous in their guidance and mentorship, along with other accomplished Arab musicians like Bassam Saba, Zafer Tawil, and Sami Abu Shumays. Since moving to NY I’ve been fortunate to be involved firsthand with many musicians in the Arab community and beyond, and have played in and led many groups out of that tradition: Simon Shaheen’s Qantara, the New York Arabic Orchestra, Zikrayat, the Bil Afrah Project, Sharq Attack, Nashaz, as well as various genre-bending musical projects, theater, modern dance, and film.
Lately I've been co-curating a new music series, the Brooklyn Maqam Hang, aiming to bring the New York Arabic music community together and welcome new listeners. We want to create opportunities for performance and for veteran musicians to inspire and mentor younger musicians, extending the welcome that brought us into the community. Other projects have been writing music for my ensembles Sharq Attack and Nashaz, and performing traditional Egyptian and Syrian music with Zikrayat, Takht al-Nagham and other ensembles. I've also been adding oud to some film soundtracks and playing the occasional Broadway show.