Musical Performance: The Alwan Arab Music Ensemble Featuring the Music of Sheikh Imam

Sat, June 29, 2013 8:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

(View all musical performances »)

George Ziadeh - Vocals and 'Oud

Zafer Tawil– Qanun

Sami Abu Shumays - Violin

Apolstolos Sideris - Bass

Rami El Aasser - Percussion

Tickets: $20 General (*buy now) | $15 for Students, Members and Seniors (*buy now) available at the door or online.

(*A small online fee is applied - use printout as your ticket)

Doors open at 7:30 p.m.

Members of the Alwan Arab Music Ensemble are 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. Their 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.

The Concert

Imam Mohammad Ahmad Eissa or Sheikh Imam (July 2, 1918 – June 7, 1995) was a famous Egyptian composer and singer. For most of his life, he formed a duo with the colloquial poet Ahmed Fouad Negm. Together, they were known for their political songs that favored the poor and the working classes. Imam was born to a poor family in the Egyptian village of Abul Numrus in Giza. He lost his sight when he was a child. At the age of five he joined a recitation class, where he memorized the Qur’an. He later moved to Cairo where he met Sheikh Darwish el-Hareery who taught him the fundamentals of music and muwashahaat . Later, Imam worked with the Egyptian composer Zakariyya Ahmad and studied Egyptian folk songs, especially those by Sayed Darwish and Abdou el-Hamouly.

In 1962 he met the Egyptian poet Ahmed Fouad Negm. For many years, they formed a duo composing and singing political songs. Though their songs were banned on Egyptian radio and television stations, they were popular among ordinary people in the 1960s and 1970s. Their revolutionary songs criticizing Arab regimes, particularly after their spectacular defeat in the 1967 war led to their imprisonment and detention on many occasions. In the mid-1980s, Imam performed several concerts in France, Britain, Lebanon, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria.

The music of Sheikh Imam is marked by a form of totality that allowed his political songs to travel beyond the geographical location of its origin. Sheikh Imam's music appealed to non-Arab and Arab symbols such as Palestine or his tribute to Che Guevara. Although he studied Quranic recitation at an early age, Imam came to be known for his magnificent classical Arab musical composition and as a rebellious folk singer. He also rejuvenated, modernized and developed the art of the political song in the Arab world. Musically, his instrument of choice was the Oud, and the compositions, anchored in tradition, are rather streamlined in their development and orchestration, but emotive of Tarab in an intimate setting.

Artist Bios:

George Ziadeh was born in Birzeit, Palestine, and pursued music from a young age. In 1986 he moved to the United States, where he has studied oud with Simon Shaheen and classical singing and voice with Youssef Kassab. George is considered an authority onmaqam theory and Arab classical repertoire.

New York based Palestinian-American Zafer Tawil is a virtuosic performer on the oud, violin, qanun and a full range of Arab percussion instruments. He has performed with numerous musicians ranging from Sting to Arab music greats such as Simone Shaheen, Chab Mami, and Bassam Saba to avant-garde composer/performer Elliot Sharpe, among others. Zafer has composed music for a number of films including the Oscar-nominated Jonathan Demme film Rachel Getting Married.

Sami Abu Shumays, is an accomplished violinist and vocalist in the modern pan-Arab maqam tradition and founder and director of the ensemble Zikrayat, a tight knit, small scale Arabic orchestra devoted to original reinterpretations of the iconic, post-Ottoman popular repertoire of early- to mid- 20th Century Egypt and the Levant.

Apostolos Sideris was born in 1978 in Athens, Greece, where he had his first musical training, playing the classical flute. At Berklee, he picked up the upright bass and since then it s been his main instrument. Apostolos moved to New York and earned his Master's degree in Performance. He has performed with a wide array of musicians ranging from jazz masters such as drummer Clarence Penn to world music sensation and ECM recording artist Savina Yannatou and Syrian vocalist Youssef Khasab, right here at Alwan.

Rami El-Aasser can be found at many of NYC's belly dance joints, inspiring ecstatic gyrations through tight rhythms on the dumbek , frame drum and riqq. Although steeped in Egyptian music, Rami was drawn to the mixed repertoire of the NYC dance scene, including music from the greater Middle East, Turkey, Persia, Israel, Armenia, and Greece. Rami has performed at NYC Summer Stage 2001 and at Lallapalooza 2003 and has continued to be active with performing ensembles and theater, both in NYC and abroad.


Alwan's music program is made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in Partnership with the City Council.

Last updated: 2014-01-06 14:31:49

Alwan Arab Music Ensemble
Alwan Arab Music Ensemble
Sheikh Imam
Sheikh Imam
Sheikh Imam and Ahmed Fouad Nagem
Sheikh Imam and Ahmed Fouad Nagem

Alwan for the Arts

16 Beaver Street, 4th Floor
(between Broad St. and Broadway)
New York, NY 10004
(646) 732-3261

Alwan Auction 2016

Join Our Mailing List:



Classes are currently being scheduled. Please check back soon for updates.



There are currently no upcoming events.


16 Beaver Street
4th Floor
New York, NY 10004
(646) 732 3261
Email Us

Alwan for the Arts is accessible to people with disabilities. Please call 646 732 3261 in advance, or, buzz at the door to arrange a ramp.

© 2020 Alwan for the Arts

Hosting donated by:, the Arabic Encyclopedia