I came into contact with the oud in 2000 at the New School while taking a world music ensemble class lead by percussionist, Jamey Haddad.  Palestinian music giant, Simon Shaheen, was a guest artist in this class and he sat in with us, playing oud on his own compositions, for about seven sessions. Simon’s music is a fusion of Western jazz and traditional Arabic music and I fell in love with what I heard immediately. The sound of the oud was familiar to me, in a way that I still don’t completely understand, and I was moved by its richness. Not owning an oud myself, I became obsessed with trying to mimic its sound with my own guitar. I tried to get the same inflections. I even tried to play quarter tones which was impossible as the frets got in the way.  So, I created a fretless guitar by sanding all the  frets down and quickly I began hitting the quartertones that I was so drawn to in Simone’s playing. 

Around this same time my friend, the great Israeli composer and Turkish clarinetist Harel Shachal, approached me about creating an ensemble with the same intentions of mixing Eastern and Western sounds.  We started learning simple maqams together, and soon Anistar was born. Not long after, Harel hassled me to start playing an actual oud, instead of my home made fretless guitar.

So, I began private lessons with Najeeb Shaheen, Simone’s brother, who sold me my first oud. Najeeb introduced me to Egyptian repertoire including the music of Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Rahbani Brothers, Oum Kaltoum, and Riad Al Sunbati oud taksim’s. This music, my work in Anistar, and the oud itself were so captivating that I actually put the guitar down for a good three years while I studied with Najeeb and played all over New York City with Anistar.  This immersion changed my ears, my approach to the guitar, and my sense of melody forever.

At the moment Anistar is on hiatus and I have been infusing the sounds of oud and the East, once again, into my guitar work. But the oud and the people who helped me along in my relationship with this beautiful instrument are always close to me.

Collaborations

Anistar, Souren Baronian, Vlada Tomova, Smadar, Sinem, Nuriya, Sarah Aroeste, Dub Gabriel, Henri Scars, Nir Naaman.