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World music star brings his extensive repertoire to Santa Barbara

8 Feb 2013 1:48 PM
World music star brings his extensive repertoire to Santa Barbara

It is no surprise that Simon Shaheen's music encompasses such an abundance of styles and influences, as the Palestinian-born musician has traveled extensively and worked purposefully to incorporate as many musical traditions into his oeuvre as possible. Hailed as a virtuoso at the violin and oud - a Middle Eastern stringed instrument - since his adolescence, Shaheen has made a career out of constantly evolving, refining and broadening his art form.

Shaheen's wide-ranging talents and lively playing will be on display in Santa Barbara on February 6, when he brings his quintet to Campbell Hall. Those in attendance at Campbell Hall, which is centrally located on the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara, will be in store for a long evening that sees Shaheen and his fellow players seamlessly blend traditional Arabic rhythms and melodies with elements of jazz, classical and modern music. 

Indeed, Shaheen's cultural importance is as much about as his ability to explore different musical traditions as it is about his virtuosity. As he has traveled the globe, Shaheen has always seen his mission as educating people about the world's many musical varieties and, perhaps most importantly, demonstrating how they converge.

"One of the reasons the melody is so rich in Arabic music is because of this quality called microtonality," he told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "In Arabic music we don't really have harmony because of microtonality and the melodic richness we can produce."

Explanations like this, which Shaheen is quick to dispense, help bring his concerts beyond the realm of a simple performance. Many fans, who frequently travel miles to see him play, treat his musical events as an opportunity to enter a different musical ecosystem.