Sat, November 10, 2007 9:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Najeeb Shaheen (Oud) Johnny Farraj (Percussion) With Guest master vocalist


Mohammed Abdel Wahab (1907 - May, 1991) was perhaps the most prominent 20th century Egyptian singer and composer. Born in Cairo, Egypt, to a family with modest means, Abdel Wahab learned Quranic recitation and a great deal of religious songs. Later, he would rebel against his family, who wanted him to have an education at Al-azhar, and would opt for a career in music after he had discovered his love for musical theater. He made his first recording at the age of thirteen. in 1924, He played oud before the Prince of Poets, Ahmed Shawqi, who became his mentor for a while and had him compose and sing many of his poems. In 1926 Abdel Wahab finished composing a musical entitled Antonio and Cleopatra that was started by the late Sayyid Darwish. He sang the lead role and became established as a great composer and singer. Then, he turned his attention to movies and acted in several of them, including the famous "Alwarda Albida" and "Ghazal Albanat". He was the first Egyptian singer to move from silent-era acting and move to singing. Abdel Wahab stopped singing in the 1960s and concentrated on composing for other singers, including ten songs for the legendary Oum Kulthum, the first of which was Inta Omri in 1964. In 1988, he surprised everyone by going back to the studio to record his last song "min Ghir Lih".

He died in may 1991, leaving behind 1800 songs and instrumental compositions. He is remembered mostly for his innovative approach to Arab music and the introduction of European and Latin American elements into Arab music forms.

Najeeb Shaheen

Born and schooled in Haifa, Najeeb started playing the oud at a tender age. His father, the late Hikmat Shaheen, was an accomplished oud player, singer, and music teacher. His grandfather was cantor at the local church. After the 1967 war, Najeeb immigrated to the United States where he attended college. For decades, he has been performing nationally and internationally. He also makes and restores ouds.

Youssef Kassab

Originally from Syria, Youssef Kassab began learning the oud and studying voice with his uncle at an early age. He continued his studies at the Damascus Conservatory, specializing in qanun (zither) and classical Arabic music vocal repertoire. There he recorded and performed with the Syrian Radio Orchestra as a vocalist. In 1970 he moved to New York where he has been performing in concerts and festivals throughout the United States and Central America. In 1982 he joined the Near Eastern Music Ensemble as a principal vocalist.

Youssef 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.

Johnny Farraj Johnny Farraj studied the riq (Egyptian tambourine) and frame drum with Karim Nagi and Fairuz's percussionist Michel Merhej. He also studied the oud with Simon Shaheen and Bassam Saba, and classical Arabic singing with Rima Khcheich and Youssef Kassab. As a percussionist, he has performed with Simon Shaheen/Qantrara (Symphony Space) and Amir El-Saffar, and recorded on the soundtrack of the play "9 Parts of Desire" by Heather Raffo. Johnny has performed and given lecture demonstrations in universities and museums throughout the US and Canada, and has created the web site to teach classical Arabic music (maqam) theory.

Last updated: 2007-11-20 11:38:51

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