Maqam Artist Bios

Tareq Abboushi Abboushi grew up in Palestine and moved to America at the age of 16. A graduate with honors from William Paterson University with a B.M. in Jazz Piano Performance, he became more involved in Arab music after attending...more

Mohamed Abdullah Abdullah graduated from the Institute of Classical Music, with a specialization in both Western and Arab violin, from his native city of Aleppo, Syria. Known for its listening community with scrupulous aesthetic standards for Arab music...more

Ahlem Ahlem was born in Tunis, Tunisia and began singing at age 13. She studied at the music conservatory of Tunis and then went on to perform at local parties and weddings, at national and international festivals...more

Ahmed Alrodini Singer, percussionist (dumbek and frame drum) and oud player, Alrodini was born in Bakat Al Hoddeidah on the Red Sea coast of Yemen. Learning music informally from the time he was a small boy, Alrodini once made himself an oud from found objects...more

Ranya Renee Asfour One of New York's leading Arab dance artists, Ranya has performed and taught on 4 continents and locally at Lincoln Center's Out-of-Doors Festival, the American Museum of Natural History, Wave Hill...more

Al Nujoom Troupe Al Nujoom is a New Jersey-based Palestinian folkloric debkah troupe founded in 2005 and led by Ramzi Zdouq, who has called Paterson his home for nearly 3 years. Many of Nujoom's members are originally from the same village near Ramallah...more

Alsarah Alsarah is a singer, songwriter, and ethnomusicologist. Born in Sudan, she called many places home around the world before settling in Brooklyn, NY. She began studying music at the age of 12, and joined her first 'world music group'...more

Azza Amon Since the start of her career, Azza has been a featured dancer in all of New York's top Arab nightclubs, including The Nile, Cedars of Lebanon, Mofeta's, and Ibis. Based in Brooklyn, she dances at many weddings, private parties...more

Michel Merhej Baklouk Baklouk, a Lebanese riqq player and teacher in the Lebanese Conservatory, has worked with numerous pioneers of Arab music over the course of his long and successful career. Among the notable musicians with whom he has collaborated...more

Mohamed Bechar Born in Marrakesh, Morocco, Bechar moved to Brooklyn with his wife and children in 1997. He first learned Gnawa traditions as a young boy from his mother's family; his cousin was ma'alem or master Gnawi and his aunt hosted all-night Gnawa trance...more

Rana Beyruti Born in Tripoli, Lebanon, Beyruti has been singing and acting since the age of 12, when she began performing at local haflat (parties) and restaurants. Since immigrating to the U.S. in 1996, Beyruti has established herself as a highly sought-after vocalist...more

Jawad Bohsina From Casablanca, Morocco, Bohsina bought his first keyboard at age 12, and  'as he recounts' it grew with him. Today he is one of NYC vocalists' most requested and respected keyboardists. By 16, Bohsina was playing...more

Abdel Rahim Boutat A Moroccan Beber from the town of Khenifra in the Middle Atlas Mountains, Boutat began playing the loutar as young boy in middle school. The loutar, a four stringed skin-faced lute, is among the diverse instrumentation found in Berber music...more

Maurice Chedid Maurice Chedid honed his oud playing at the Lebanese Conservatory of Middle Eastern Music, but comes from a family of musicians. His father was a highly esteemed cantor in the Maronite Church in Lebanon...more

Fahim Dandan Brooklyn-based Palestinian vocalist Fahim Dandan grew up with exposure to the folk music traditions of Haifa and nearby villages. Dandan's mother was respected for her musical ability and noted for her participation at village weddings...more

Yasser Darwish Darwish, a performer and teacher of Egyptian folkloric dance, was born in Alexandria, Egypt. At the age of 18, Darwish became a member of the Alexandria Folk Dance Group and several years later moved to Cairo, where he danced...more

Salaam Debkah Founded at Bay Ridge's Arab American Association in 2001, Salaam Debkah promotes youth development and Arab cultural forms. Practicing weekly, under the direction of Sheren Attal, Salaam Debkah is now a core component...more

Amir ElSaffar One of few in the world who is an expert in the Iraqi maqam, ElSaffar, trumpeter, composer, singer, and santoor player, is garnering an international reputation for his work, both in the traditional Iraqi Maqam and in jazz music...more

Dena El Saffar Dena El Saffar, of Iraqi and American heritage, was exposed to Arabic music in the suburbs of Chicago, where she grew up attending Iraqi gatherings with her family. She began learning the violin at the age of six. At age 17, completely engaged in...more

Riyad El Tunsi El Tunsi was born in Tunis, where he began taking music and oud lessons at age 14 at the Salah El Mahdi Musical Club. El Mahdi, a legendary Tunisian music composer, recognized El Tunsi's talent and encouraged him to pursue a musical career...more

Said Fahmy Born in Alexandria, Egypt, Said has been playing percussion for more than thirty-five years. He has played with dancer Aida Nour and with such singers as Mohamed El Helwa, Ali Haggar, and Iman Darwish...more

Carlo Fakhoury Born in Lebanon, Fakhoury studied classical guitar at the Conservatoire of Lebanon. He later picked up electric guitar, inspired by Omar Khoshid, famous for integrating electric guitar into the standard Arab music repertoire...more

Johnny Farraj Johnny Farraj has studied riq (Egyptian tambourine) and frame drum with Karim Nagi and Fairuz's percussionist Michel Merhej, both featured in Brooklyn Maqam. He also studied oud with Simon Shaheen and Bassam Saba...more

Brahim Fribgane Born and raised in Morocco, Fribgane grew up surrounded by North African, Gnawa, Berber, Arab and Andalusian music. By 16 he was playing guitar at weddings and parties in Casablanca...more

Salim Ghacham Ghacham hails from the village of Yaroun on the southern border of Lebanon, where families and friends dance debkah at every social gathering, from weddings to birthdays. Ghacham was particularly influenced by...more

Isaac Gutwilik Canadian-born Gutwilik's interest in music began at a young age when his aunt gave him a Perez Prado album and his own transistor radio. School offered him an immersion into the world of traditional Jewish and Hebrew chanting...more

Gaida Hinnawi Gaida Hinnawi is a vocalist and composer working at the intersection of the New York Arab and improvised music scenes. Her compositions draw on classical Arabic song, Syrian folk traditions, and improvisations that...more

Hisham Born in Nador, Morroco, to a family that practices music traditions, Hisham began playing percussion at age 13. His first lessons in music came from his cousin and a close friend, both of whom played drums. Eager to deepen his music practice...more

El Mostafa Jdidi El Mostafa comes from the Atlantic port city of El Jadida, Morocco. He bought his first instrument, a Moroccan wooden flute called gasbah, as a boy. He was drawn to its sad, yet sweet sound quality, and as a teenager delved deeper into music...more

Jehan By the age of 3 Jehan was already dreaming of becoming a bellydancer, having been introduced to the art form via the star dancers of Egyptian golden-age cinema. Pursuing the study of raqs sharqi or belly dance...more

Eddie "the Sheik" Kochak Eddie Soubhi Ibn Farjallah Kochakhi was born and raised in Brooklyn, in a Syrian Catholic family on Atlantic Avenue. His sister brought him his first dumbek from Aleppo when he was ten. He came to be known as Eddie 'the Sheik' while...more

LaUra LaUra was born in Tashkent (Uzbekistan) and comes from a family of traditional artists. Her mother, a professional dancer, was the granddaughter of one of the greatest Uzbeki poets of all time, Hamza Hakimzoda Niyazi...more

Layla Layla began studying Middle Eastern dance at the age of 19 at Serena Studios in New York City. Her passion for Middle Eastern dance led her to study with such masters of the form as Yousry Sharif, Ramzi El-Edlibi and Elena...more

Jad Lebbos Lebbos comes from Beirut, Lebanon and learned debkah  'the celebrated social line dance of the Levant- in the rural areas where it has been danced into the earth for generations. Lebbos' debkah practice is inspired...more

Dimitri Mikelis From Athens, Greece, Mikelis is both an 'ud and piano performer. He holds a B.M from Berklee College of Music in jazz studies (2003), a Masters in Jazz Performance from the William Paterson University, NJ (2006) and a Diploma in...more

Tim Moore Tim Moore grew up in the Midwest, and began playing drums at the age of 12. A natural percussionist, he began performing with different groups early on, gaining experience in a variety of genres including jazz, blues, salsa and rock...more

Mohamed Nabawy Nabawy grew up immersed in the Egyptian popular and classical music emanating from Mohamed Ali street, the Cairo neighborhood celebrated for its professional musicians, dancers and music stores. As the street's talented musicians...more

Karim Nagi Nagi, a native Egyptian, is an expert in Arab, Turkish and Andalusian hand percussion. He holds a Psychology degree from Skidmore College. Nagi has studied with Nabil Ata, Midhat al-Rashidi, Simon Shaheen, and Michel Merhej Baklouk...more

Rami Nasser Nasser comes from the Egyptian city of Tantra, where he started playing classical piano in high school. He later graduated from the teacher?s college at the University with a degree in classical western music. In Egypt, he taught piano, violin...more

Nourredine Nourredine grew up in Casablanca, Morocco and began playing percussion as a teenager. Surrounded by Moroccan music traditions that are integral to Moroccan social celebrations, and greatly influenced by...more

Rayhana Rayhana's dramatic and sensual style incorporates the influences of all the artists she has studied under. She interprets the subtleties and drama of Middle Eastern music, mixing different styles such as Arab and Turkish...more

Salah Rhani Moroccan violinist Salah Rhani specializes in the popular musical genres of North Africa, sha'abi and Rai. At the age of 10 he began playing kamanja (Arab violin), which he learned from his brothers, and accompanied his uncles...more

Nikolai Ruskin Ruskin is a composer and multi-instrumentalist with expertise in Arab, Turkish, and Persian music. Specializing in percussion, oud, and nay, Ruskin also performs and records on qanun, violin, rababa, mizmar, saz and many more...more

Samara Samara has spent 25 years dedicated to the dances of the Middle East and North Africa. Drawn to the dance because of her Mediterranean heritage (Greek and Turkish), she began dancing professionally in her teens...more

Gamal Shafik Brooklyn-based Shafik grew up in a musical family in Cairo surrounded by Egyptian popular, folk, and classical music that made his Shobra neighborhood jump. As a young boy, he practiced percussion on household items like pots and pans...more

Najeeb Shaheen Raised near Haifa, Najeeb Shaheen was trained on the oud by his father, the late Hikmat Shaheen. As a child, he and his brother Simon Shaheen were deeply influenced by the weekly regional broadcasts on Egyptian Radio's "Voice of the Arabs"...more

Simon Shaheen An oud and violin virtuoso, Simon Shaheen is considered one of the world's leading Arab and Middle Eastern musicians. As a composer and performer, his work incorporates a legacy of Arabic music, while it forges ahead to new frontiers...more

Sami Abu Shumays (Zikrayat) Shumays received a bachelor's degree in music composition from Harvard University before turning to Arab music. He first studied Arab violin under Simon Shaheen in New York (1998-2001), then traveled to Egypt on a Fulbright Fellowship...more

Zafir Tawil Jerusalem-born Tawil is an accomplished Palestinian musician whose areas of expertise include the oud, violin, qanun, and Arab percussion. Zafer performs across the US and in the Middle East...more

Samer Tabari Tabari is a Palestinian vocalist who comes from a family of musicians and singers. He began to learn and play keyboard at age 11 and by age 14 was performing at weddings and parties with many famous singers and musicians...more

Samuel R. Thomas Samuel Thomas, performer and ethnomusicologist, holds two Bachelor of Music degrees from Berklee College of Music in Jazz Composition and Performance, a Masters of Music from CUNY-Brooklyn College...more

Bassil Touma Touma grew up singing traditional Lebanese songs at parties, festivals and with his school choir in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. As a teenager, Touma enrolled in Tripoli's music conservatory to study oud, including classical...more

Shoshana Tubi Shoshana 'Sham'eh' Tubi, a long-time Brooklyn resident, was born in Sana'a, the capital of Yemen. At a young age she learned the wedding songs and dances of the Jewish women of Sana'a, in which she eventually became an expert...more

Scott Wilson Wilson, the son of the famous Middle Eastern dancer 'Serena' of New York City, grew up immersed in the music of Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Armenia and Israel, and played in the New York club scene during the 40s, 50s, and 60s...more

Mohamed Yhya Born in Alexandria, Egypt, Yhya started playing the tabla at age 5. His uncle performed at local celebrations and would bring Yhya along, sit him on a chair, and prop a drum on his knees. Soon Yhya wanted his own tabla and started to make...more

Naji Youssef The Lebanese-American tenor Naji Youssef was born in the El-Shouf region of Lebanon and immigrated in 1988 to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where he is cantor for the Catholic Melkite Church of the Virgin Mary. The Melkite music tradition includes...more

Malika Zarra Zarra was born in Morocco and raised in France, where she studied clarinet and voice. In 2004 she moved to New York City to develop her rich and eclectic style, drawing on gospel, funk and Sub-Saharan African influences...more

George Ziadeh George 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...more

Cantor Yehezkel Zion Yehezkel Zion, born in Jerusalem, is of Iraqi descent and comes from a very musically talented Baghdad family. His father was a singer and drummer and his siblings, all living in Israel, practice musical traditions, too...more