While in European music history the organ has traditionally been regarded as the “Queen of Instruments,” it is without a doubt the oud that takes the same place in the music of the Arabic world. Few artists today have achieved greater recognition in promoting the instrument than Naseer Shamma, curator of the Arabic Music Days. As a virtuoso performer, educator, and cultural ambassador, he has not only raised the profile and visibility of the oud around the world, but also developed the instrument itself by adding and changing details of its construction. The “Oud Houses” he established in several cities across the Arabic world have become important training centers for the next generation of musicians.
For the 2023 Arabic Music Days, Shamma has invited fellow oud players and ensembles consisting of students and teachers from the Oud Houses in Cairo, Abu Dhabi, and elsewhere. An extensive program of film, literature, and visual art will provide additional perspectives of contemporary Arabic culture on site and online.
Poet Lorca Sbeity will accompany the concert with readings from her work.
Trust us: after attending the Arabic Music Days, you’ll be an oud expert. The short-necked lute—known as the “queen of Arabic instruments”—has played a central role in musical life throughout the Arabic-speaking world and beyond for centuries. It sparked the development of a multitude of performance styles and is the ancestor of a number of stringed instruments, including the European lute. It has also found its place in jazz and pop music, a notable example being Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir. During the Arabic Music Days, you will get to know the oud in all its facets, played by some of the world’s leading virtuosos including festival curator Naseer Shamma.
Learn more about the Oud Houses founded by curator Naseer Shamma. These are centers both for training the next generation of oud players and furthering the development of the instrument itself. Short video documentaries that you can watch here introduce a group of Oud House students and graduates, many of which will perform live at the Pierre Boulez Saal. During the Arabic Music Days, luthiers from the Cairo and Abu Dhabi Oud Houses will share insights into the art of making the instruments.
Then you shouldn’t miss experiencing the truly unique atmosphere at the Pierre Boulez Saal during the Arabic Music Days. Captivating musical performances in combination with the hall’s intimate setting create thrilling musical moments that won’t keep you in your seat.
The Arabic Music Days offer a contemporary panorama of Arabic culture: as part of the concert performances, poets Fowziyah AbuKhalid (Saudi Arabia) and Lorca Sbeity (Lebanon) will read from their works, and an on-site exhibition presents sculptures by Emirati visual artist Azza Al Qubaisi. Ahmed Yassin Al Daradji’s 2022 film Hanging Gardens will be available for online streaming exclusively to all festival visitors. Last but not least, our catering partner Casalot once again offers its delicious selection of dishes of Arabic cuisine.
No? Then you should join us for the Arabic Music Days’ final concert on September 17, when Naseer Shamma takes the stage himself together with friends and former students.
Iraqi oud player Ahmad Shamma received his training at Baghdad University’s College of Fine Arts and later with Naseer Shamma at the Cairo Oud House, where he graduated with honors in 2007. He subsequently taught at the Oud Houses in Cairo and Abu Dhabi before joining the faculty of Sorbonne University’s Abu Dhabi branch in 2013. He has performed in numerous countries throughout the Arabic-speaking world and beyond. In 2014, he released his debut album Arabian Springs. In addition to his stage career, he also works as a composer for other artists as well as in film and television.
Zied Zouari received his musical education in Tunisia and has been living in Paris since 2006, where he has performed with artists from various musical traditions, including Sylvain Luc, Daniel Mille, Bojan Z, Manu Théron, and Emel Mathlouthi. Equally at home in Arabic music and in jazz, electronic music, and rock, he has performed at the Festival de Carthage, Institut du monde arabe, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, and Zénith, among many other venues. In 2016, he was the music director for the first Arabic-language opera, Moneim Adwan’s Kalîla wa Dimna, which premiered at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence.
Yassir Bousselam studied violoncello in his native Morocco as well as in Paris, Brussels, and Mons. He was a member of the Moroccan Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chapelle Musicale de Tournai, the Brussels Philharmonic, and the Moroccan Radio Orchestra, and teaches master classes in Morocco and abroad. In addition to his artistic career, he obtained a PhD in ethnomusicology specializing in the music of the Moroccan-Andalusian tradition.
Leïla Soldevila studied classical and jazz double bass in Lyon, The Hague, and Paris and works as a musician, composer, and arranger in a variety of musical contexts from jazz and improvised music to traditional music from different cultures, to pop music, French chanson, and Western classical music. She has performed with many ensembles and groups throughout France, as well as in Canada, India, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, and Morocco, among other places.
Lorca Sbeity works as a poet, writer, and journalist. She has published poetry, children’s books, and articles on political and cultural issues in a variety of outlets. Her books of poetry include You Are Mine Now, You Are Free (2004), Nothing but Insomnia (2014), and most recently This Is All Before You. Her children’s book Two Homes Instead of One was named Best Children’s Book at the 2017 Etisalat Awards at the Sharjah Book Fair.