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McNeese Banners Presents Simon Shaheen & Qantara in Concert

McNeese Banners Presents Simon Shaheen & Qantara in Concert

Eleven-time, Grammy-nominated composer Simon Shaheen and his rhythmically exciting quintet Qantara will be in concert one night only at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9, in F.G. Bulber Auditorium as part of the Banners Cultural Series at McNeese State University.

A pre-concert talk by Shaheen will begin at 6:45 p.m. in the upstairs mezzanine of the auditorium.

Tickets are included in a Banners Series membership. Individual tickets can be purchased online at, at the Lake Charles Civic Center box office and at the door. Ticket prices are $20 for adults, $5 for ages 18 and under and free for McNeese and Sowela students with ID.

This concert is funded in part by a grant from the Louisiana Decentralized Arts Funding Program as administered by the Arts and Humanities Council of SWLA, and also through a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.

Qantara freely mixes jazz, Latin American rhythms and Western classical styles with traditional Arabic sounds. The result is heavily melodic but wildly rhythmic and allows for a great deal of improvisation on the part of its virtuosic members.

Shaheen says that Qantara - the name means "arch" in Arabic - brings to life his vision for a perfect alchemy for music that transcends the boundaries of genre and geography. He calls it "unbridled fusion."

Performing with him Saturday will be Billy Drewes on flute and savophone, Najib Shaheen on the 'oud, Walid Zairi on double bass and Dafer Tawil on percussion.

"I want to create a world of music exceptionally satisfying to the ear and for the soul," said Shaheen, "This is why I selected members for Qantara who are all virtuosos in their own musical forms and whose expertise and knowledge can raise the music and the group's performance to spectacular levels," he said.

Shaheen has produced multiple albums, and although his soaring technique and melodic ingenuity are apparent on all of them, he has gathered the most fame for "Blue Flame." On this album, he leads Qantara on a journey through the world of fusion music to discover the heart of the Middle East.

"Blue Flame" has been nominated for 11 Grammy Awards and the band's performances have been called "glorious." The Banners Series performance will include tracks from this album, as well as other compositions by Shaheen and other Arab composers.

Shaheen entered the world of music early. He was a child prodigy on both the 'oud and the violin.

A Palestinian, born in the village of Tarshiha in the Galilee, his childhood was steeped in music. His father, Hikmat Shaheen, was a professor of music and a master 'oud player, so Shaheen began playing on the 'oud at the age 5. A year later he began studying violin at the Conservatory for Western Classical Music in Haifa.

After graduating from the Academy of Music in Jerusalem in 1978, Shaheen was appointed its instructor of Arab music, performance and theory. Two years later he moved to New York City to complete his graduate studies in performance at the Manhattan School of Music, and later, in music education and musicology at Columbia University.

Shaheen's unique contribution to the world of arts was recognized with a prestigious National Heritage Award at the White House. He previously served on the Presidential Committee at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Recently, he was honored by former Gov. Jon Corzine with the New Jersey Heritage Award and by Berklee College of Music in Boston for his many contributions to the advancement of international understanding, goodwill and education.

Today Shaheen performs worldwide and has played in many of the world's greatest venues: Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, The Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Cairo's Opera House, Theatre de la Ville in Beirut and Belgium's Le Palais des Arts. He was also part of Quincy Jones' "We Are The Future" fundraising concert in Rome, playing in front of a strong crowd of half a million people.

As a champion and guardian of Arab music, Shaheen devotes almost 50 percent of his time to working with schools and universities, including The Juilliard School, Columbia, Cornell, Princeton, Brown, Harvard, Yale, University of California in San Diego, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and many others.

For more information, check the Banners Series website,, or call the Banners office at 475-5123.

Persons requesting accommodations in accordance with the ADA should contact the Office of the ADA Coordinator at least 72 hours before the event. Additional information is available from: the Office of the ADA Coordinator, Smith Hall, Room 127; Voice: (337) 475-5428; Fax: (337) 475-5960; TDD/TTY, Hearing Impaired: (337) 562-4227; or