Festival of Iraqi Culture Event: Musical Performance: Naseer Shamma and Al-Oyoun Ensemble in First US Tour in Over a Decade

Sat, March 9, 2013 7:00 pm at *

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National Tour coordinated by Alwan for the Arts

Naseer Shamma and Al-Oyoun: Celebrating the Eloquence of ‘Oud Traditions

Alwan for the Arts is pleased to present renowned Iraqi 'oud master and cultural icon Naseer Shamma in his first US tour in over a decade. Alwan is honored to host Shamma, one of the foremost living performers and purveyors of the Iraqi 'Oud School in the Arab world, as part of its commitment to present the arts and culture of the Arab world to audiences in the United States.

Tour Cities and Dates

March 7, 2013: Washington D.C.

Smithsonian Museum: Freer and Sackler Galleries, Washington DC

March 15, 2013: Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio

March 16, 2013: Columbus, Ohio

Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio

Eloquence: A Festival of Iraqi Culture

Naseer Shamma's performance is part of a multi-disciplinary Festival of Iraqi Culture that will take place in March of 2013. Curated and coordinated by Alwan for the Arts, the festival will celebrate Iraq’s contributions to world heritage and living Iraqi cultural producers of international importance, including world-renowned architect, Zaha Hadid, and master maqam vocalist, Hamid Al-Saadi, amongst others.The festival and Shamma’s tour coincide with the ten-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, and will showcase the richness and beauty of Iraq's cultural heritage at a time of heightened public awareness and consciousness about Iraq, and offering a vision for Iraq's future.

Naseer Shamma and Al-Oyoun Ensemble

Naseer Shamma is the leading exponent of the Iraqi 'oud school, and is part of a legacy that includes masters such as Jamil and Munir Bashir. Born in 1963 in al-Kut, in Southern Iraq, Shamma studied at the Baghdad Academy of Music, where he obtained a diploma in Musical Art in 1987. His reputation is built upon a profound knowledge of classical ‘oud traditions and repertoires, astounding virtuosity, technical and musical innovation. In addition, he is a composer in his own right.

As founder and director of the Cairo-based Bayt Al-‘Oud, the first conservatory dedicated to mastery of the ‘oud,established in 1998, Shamma has served as a mentor for the next generation of musicians in the Arab world. Bayt Al-'Oud has branches in Alexandria, Algeria, and Abu Dhabi and has expanded to include training on other traditional Arab instruments such as qanun, violin, nay, and percussion.

Al-Oyoun, founded by Shamma in 1999, is an eight-member chamber ensemble consisting of some of the most highly skilled and in-demand musicians in Cairo. Al-Oyoun performs a genre defined by Shamma as Arab Chamber music, a conceptual expansion of the style of the classical Arab takht, the representative musical ensemble of the Middle East.

Although Shamma and Al-Oyoun have a busy touring schedule, performing regularly in concert halls across Europe, Asia, and the Arab world, this marks their US tour in over a decade, after Shamma took a stance not to perform in the US during the occupation of Iraq. Shamma’s concert at the Freer and Sackler Galleries at the Smithsonian Institute will be his first U.S. performance in over ten years, followed by performances in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio.

Ishraq (1996)
Le Luth de Baghdad (1998)
The Moon Fades (1999)
Ard Al Sawad (2006)
Maqamat Ziryab (2006)
Meditation (2005)
Hilal Nasser Shamma & Oyoun (2005)


The Alwan Arab Music Ensemble
The resident ensemble of Alwan for the Arts, the Alwan Ensemble delivers a joyful and transporting feast of well-loved classical songs from the greater Arab World, built around mesmerizing textures of rhythmic and improvisational intensity. In the classical art music traditions of Cairo, Aleppo, and Baghdad—three important Arab cities with great legacies in art and culture—each has a unique repertory: the dawr and qasida of Cairo; the Andalucían muwashshahat of Aleppo; and al-maqam al-Iraqi of Baghdad; with distinct characteristics, rules, and aesthetics. Yet all adhere to the maqam and place great importance on poetry and the vocal melody sung either by a soloist or a chorus, and accompanied by ensembles of traditional instruments, including the oud (lute), qanun (zither), nay (flute), violin, santur (hammered dulcimer), riqq (tambourine), and tabla (goblet drum).

Six contemporary masters of a broad range of Arab musical idioms display their seasoned sensibilities and impressive technique across a diverse array of musical selections from regional folk songs to masterpieces of Egyptian cinema and Arab concert hall culture. The Alwan Ensemble’s performance evokes ambiances of Cairo, Baghdad, al-Quds and Aleppo, but more importantly that of contemporary New York with its own vibrant Arab American artistic and intellectual community.


This program has been made possible with the support of the Egyptian Embassy, The Egyptian Education and Cultural Bureau in Washington DC, and the Egyptian Ministry of Culture.

Last updated: 2015-07-12 19:33:52

Naseer Shamma
Naseer Shamma


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