Ahmed Alshaiba - NewYork, USA
Ahmed Alshaiba is on a mission to help the world appreciate one of the oldest and most beautiful musical instruments ever conceived. It is arguably the forefather of all instruments, predating the guitar by 1500 years. Yet, in fact, the music of Ahmed is modern and western as well as ancient and eastern. For Ahmed has mastered the popular middle eastern instrument called the oud, and he dazzles listeners with surprising and innovative covers of the most western and popular of musicians, especially Michael Jackson, whose music he has loved all his life. You haven’t heard music until you’ve heard MJ’s Smooth Criminal played on an Oud in the hands of the creative Ahmed Alshaiba.
Born and raised in Yemen, Ahmed actually disliked the sound of the oud when he was young. In fact, he hated the sound – for reasons that escape him today. As fortune would have it, as a joke, his sister had given his older brother an oud, for years, the oud sat in the Alshaiba household unplayed. No one in the family was musical, and no one knew how to play the instrument – until one day a family friend saw the instrument and showed Ahmad’s brother how to play it. Ahmed was intrigued, and he would come to love the sound of the oud…and become obsessed with learning to master the playing of the instrument.
Ahmed is a self-taught musician who plays entirely by ear and doesn’t read notes. His first performance with the oud was in 2007. After playing on Woman’s National Day in 2009, he began getting invited to perform for numerous events in Yemen. His fame grew quickly, performing before audiences that included Hillary Clinton and the President of Turkey as well as the President of Yemen.
Ahmed has worked diligently to become a true master of the oud and a great promoter and preserver of traditional Middle Eastern musical culture. Just as importantly, wherever Ahmed goes, he absorbs and adapts the music of the surrounding culture, and in particular, he has gradually and creatively injected Western musical influences into his music. A jazz band from Germany had a profound influence on him, and when he lived in Egypt for a year, he was exposed to even more Western music. Ahmed’s influences have run the gamut from Middle Eastern musician Farid al-Atrash to Spanish guitarist Paco De Lucia, Canadian guitarists Don Ross and Tommy Emmanuel, and of course, Michael Jackson.
While in Egypt, Ahmed performed frequently at the Opera House and began performing professionally. In 2012 he moved permanently to the U.S., now ready to expand his musical repertoire and ultimately conquer the musical world. He has built a home studio and made influential YouTube videos that include his oud version of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal as well as other hits of MJ and other popular western singers. On the traditional side, his “My Trip Around the Arab World” is a stirring series of oud instrumentals of traditional songs from each Arabian country.
With his mixed eastern-western style, Ahmed delights in seeing how western music sounds when played on the oud. He is intent upon showing the world the beauty of the oud and how it can be used for playing any kind of music, not just Middle Eastern. Indeed, Ahmed firmly believes that every musical instrument of every culture has global validity and beauty and will sound good in any culture. His first album will have all the original music of Ahmed, impressively showcasing for the first time his astonishing musical mastery of the oud from East to West and all in between, with the input of other artists from around the world. Ahmed is truly a one-man-band evangelist of oud for the world.