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The Musicians

The musicians in the Sultana Ensemble come from different countries, religions and music backgrounds. They are from Israel, Palestine, Morocco, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Macedonia, Armenia, and the United States. The musicians change from time to time base on their availability, but we try to do our best and maintain a steady core of musicians that can preserve the spirit of the ensemble.

Yoel Ben-Simhon (Founder, composer, oud, piano and vocals)
Yoel Ben-Simhon (composer, singer, oud, guitar,piano and percussion) Is an Israeli born of Moroccan parentage. His Moroccan heritage is deeply imbedded in his musical work as he strives to preserve the music he heard as a child, Andalusian, Moroccan and Arabic music. Ben-Simhon has committed himself to researching the relationship between Jewish and Arabic music of the Middle East and promoting the artistic exchange between the two cultures. In doing that he creates a unique experience with distinctive and vibrant sounds. In this path of exploration Ben-Simhon has studied Middle Eastern, classical western and jazz music as well as voice techniques. He pursued his academic studies at the Mannes School of Music and received his BA and MA in music composition from Hunter College in 1998. He has studied with mentors Paul Moravec and Simon Shaheen. Ben-Simhon also studied several percussion instruments: frame-drums with Glen Velez and darbuka and riqq with Suran Baronian. Currently he continues to study the oud and classical Arabic music with Bassam Saba and at The Arabic Music Retreat. Ben-Simhon is the founder and composer of the "Sultana Ensemble," a group comprised of musicians from both Arab and Israeli descent. He has recorded two CD’s with his ensemble and was recorded as a guest musician on other CD’s and film soundtracks. Recently, Ben-Simhon co-produced and co-arranged the music for a CD recording for the Ladino-fusion band "Sarah Aroeste," in which he also plays and sings. He was the featured oud player on a soundtrack for the 2002 New York Fashion Show. Among his other activities, Ben-Simhon composes music for the visual media's, for movies like : "Concert Joe", "Shaheed", and "A Job To Win" and has orchestrated the music for the off Broadway musical "God of Vengeance." He has performed at numerous venues, including the United Nations General Assembly Hall, the Jewish Museum, Chicago Cultural Center, The HotHouse Chicago, and in New York’s main music scenes; Knitting Factory, Satalla, Makor, to name a few. Ben-Simhon was interviewed with the acclaimed Andalusian singer Emil Zrihan by Sarah Fishko for WNYC (NPR) as an expert on Jewish music in Morocco. Ben-Simhon continues to study, create, perform and promote the music of the Middle East. In doing so he also hopes to foster the artistic dialogue between western and eastern cultures, communities, and individuals specifically between Jews and Arabs.

Bassam Saba (nai, flute, violin and oud)
Originally from Lebanon, he studied at the Lebanon National Conservatory on the oud (eastern lute), nai (end-blown reed flute) and the violin. In 1976, Mr. Saba moved to France where he received his Bachelor's Degree in Western Classical music and Flute Performance at the Conservatoire Municipal Des Gobelins in Paris. In 1979, he moved to Moscow where he received a Master's Degree in Western Flute Performance and Music Education (1985) at the Gnessin Musical Pedagogical Institute. After finishing his studies in Moscow, he moved back to Beirut and performed with various singers such as Fairuz, Majida al-Roumi, Sabah Fakhri, and Wadi al-Safi and composers such as Ziad Rahbani, Marcel Khalife and Tawfik Farroukh. Mr. Saba's musical career is peppered with live concert broadcasts and radio interviews aired in France, Belgium, Lebanon, Japan and the U.S. In 1990, he moved to New York and joined Simon Shaheen's Near Eastern Music Ensemble, playing traditional classical Arab music, as well as al-Qantara, where he demonstrates his unique ability to play the western flute in microtonal Arab music. Some of the many well known musicians with whom he has played include percussionists Jamey Haddad and Glen Velez; bassists Francois Moutin and Michael Richmond and Herbie Schwartz. Mr. Saba also participated with al-Qantara to open for Sting's concert at Jones Beach Theater. He is considered one of the most outstanding nay players in the U.S. and has toured throughout the Middle East, Europe, United States, Canada, South America, Australia, Africa and Japan.

Hicham Chami (qanun)
A native of Tetuan, Morocco, has studied qanun since he was eight, when he enrolled at the National Conservatory of Music and Dance in Rabat. He is currently an MBA student at DePaul University in Chicago. His musical collaborations in the U.S., with musicians from Maine, New York, Illinois, Oklahoma, and California, have ranged from Armenian to Sephardic. He was named Best Instrumentalist by Chicago Magazine in their 2002 Best of Chicago's issue. Hicham has started a new music publishing company, Xauen Music, Inc., which is dedicated to Oriental music. He has recently organized a new Chicago-based ensemble, Mosaic, which performs traditional instrumental music from the North African, Sephardic, Egyptian, Levantine, Greek, Turkish, and Armenian repertoire. Hicham's first CD, Promises, recorded with percussionist Catherine Alexander, was released in January 2003. In a recent Al Jadid article, The Quintessential Qanun, Hicham reflected on his background in relation to his musical development: Growing up in Morocco has certainly given me an exposure to a wide range of cultures. Moroccan culture is the overlapping of many civilizations: the Berber, the Arab-Islamic, the African, the Sephardic, the Western-European These cultures had cohabited in Morocco and are still blending. Only in Morocco, you can live all these cultures ... inside these cultures, in one culture, the Moroccan culture of today. That’s why I believe that despite the fact that my musical training was completely based in Morocco, my repertoire and style reflect a wide range of traditions.

Emmanuel Mann (fret-less bass)
was born in France and has been living in New York City since 1998. He has spent much of his life living in Israel, where he is considered one of Israel’s top bass players specializing in Middle-Eastern music. He became a member of Israel’s first ethnic group, Habrera Hativ’it, and later co-founded Bustan Abraham, an internationally acclaimed Jewish and Arabic ensemble. He has worked with Zakir Hussein, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Ara Dinkjian, Ross Daly, Keyvan Chemirani, Theodosii Spassov, Yuri Yunakov, Glen Velez, Zyriab trio, Zohar Fresco, Taiseer Elias, Simon Shaheen, Alessandra Belloni, Steve Gorn, Steve Shehan, George Mgrdichian, Noa, Ishtar the Voice of Alabina, Jose Antonio Rodriguez, Giora Feidman, Gerard Edery, Andy Statman, Dudu Fisher, Avraham Fried, Uri Caine, Sam Newsome, Matt Darriau, Attila Engyn, Aref, Mohin, Dariush and Morteza. He has performed at the Israel Festival, the Budapest Spring Festival, the Hong Kong Asian Arts Festival, le Theatre De La Ville, the Lille Festival, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Womad Festival, the Krakov Jewish Music Festival, Sao Paulo SESC, World Expo-Seville, Cordoba Festival Guitarra, the Akbank Jazz Festival Istanbul, the Kennedy Center, the Symphony Space, Town Hall, the Beacon Theater, the Jewish Repertory Theater. He has also done workshops at Berklee and Juillard.

Tomer Tzur (drum-set, riqq, darbuka and frame-drum)
Born in Israel but residing in New York since 1993, Tomer realized at an early age that if there would be more music there would be less talking. Tomer received a BFA from the Mannes Jazz Program at the New School. He has toured and recorded with the Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista and his all-percussion group Beat the Donkey. Tomer's origins in the Middle East have been a strong influence on his musicianship. He has been involved in a number of projects that preserve the beauty of judeo-arabic music and is a founding member of the Mesaouda Ensemble, which performs a traditional Jewish and Arabic repertoire. In addition to the drum kit, Tomer has adopted the Riq and Doumbek, ancient middle eastern percussion instruments.

Osama Faruk (darbuka, riqq and frame-drum)
Born in Egypt began playing the darbuka when he was 5 years old and never stopped since then. Osama was a lead percussionist at the Egyptian Opera where he played for several productions from 1996 to 1998. His talent and devotion to the near eastern music and its special rhythms made him the winner of the 1997 national darbuka competition in Egypt. This placed him among the top percussionist in the region and lead him to the international stage as he performed all over the Middle East. Osama is the founder and leader of the band Al Nogum (The Stars) in Egypt. Together they perform traditional Arabic music all over Egypt. Osama moved to the US in October 2002 and had since then performed in various venues throughout the US, Central America and Europe.

Dorit Konig (ethnic dancer, vocals)
At the age of three, Dorit began studying dance and music. Some of the many dance styles she studied were ballet, jazz, tap, flamenco, African, and ballroom dance, as well as gymnastics. A destined twist of fate and an immersion in North African and Middle Eastern culture led her to become one of the most highly regarded ethnic dancers today. Egyptian musicians have called her "the best Middle Eastern dancer in America." Dorit studied Arabic and Turkish bellydance with Serena Wilson, one of the most noted belly dancers of all time and now is teaching at Serena's Studio. She has also studied many variations of this dance form with great teachers in NYC and abroad. In addition to regularly performing at clubs and restaurants, Dorit has also appeared at Lincoln Center, Town Hall, The Bowery Ballroom, The Ibis Supper Club, Pantheon Theatre, Connelly Theatre, and Theatre East. Among the many renowned international artists she has performed for or with are Alabina, Hassan Hakmoun, Tommy Lee, Harvey Keitel, Julianna Margulies, Cheb Khaled, and Hakim. Dorit has appeared in articles on Middle Eastern dance in such noted publications as The New York Times, and Talent magazine. Her dance and acting talents have led her to film and television, including MTV.

Jay Rodriguez (flute, saxophones, clarinet)
Born in Colombia, Jay started playing music at the age of 7, at the age of 15, Jay was playing lead alto with the great late Tito Puente among others. During this time he attended the High School for the Performing Arts in New York City. He graduated with the highest honors. He then continued his studies at the Manhattan School of Music and the New School, but more importantly he has studied life through music and music through life. For the past two years, Jay has been dedicating some of his time working with foster children at the Graham School on Hastings on the Hudson. Jay Rodriguez has been nominated twice for a Grammy under the best jazz solo category. He was featured as a guest soloist at the Beacon Theater last summer with one of Americas greatest musical phenomenon "Widespread Panic." Recently under his own name, Jay released a groundbreaking CD (Batidos) for dance/world record label (Six Degrees), in which he mixed elements of Afro Caribbean traditions with modern dance music. Jay Rodriguez is now the musical director/MC and a founding member of New York City's best kept secret, Groove Collective. Mr. Rodriguez is considered by many to be one the greatest saxophonist in the world. Jay Rodriguez had performed and or recorded and produced for Tito Puente,The New York Philharmonic, Eddie Palmieri,Wynton Marsalis,The Gil Evans Band,The Mingus Big Band...the list goes on and on. Look for Jay on Elvis Costello's new release "When I was Cruel." For more information:

Rachid Halihal (voice, oud, violin)
Brings to the community the true character and spirit of musics from the classical Egyptian repertoire; from the diverse regions of Morocco; and from the Arabian Gulf. Growing up in Fez, Morocco, at fourteen he entered the Conservatory of Music there to study Western classical and Andalusian music which best features his voice. In addition his strongest instruments are the oud (Arabic lute)and the violin, which he plays in both the classical manner and upright resting on the knee. The music which he presents is soulful and poetic as well as very danceable. He has presented his music in Ivory Coast, Sweden, Finland at the Helsinki International Music Festival, Denver Colorado, New York City at Columbia University with visiting Israeli singer, Michel Cohen, as well as other ethnic concerts and in various Moroccan establishments throughout the city; and Agadir, Morocco, where he fully managed a night club, his own band, and folkloric troupe for seven years. He then accompanied on his violin, the best known Arabian singer Mohamed Abdo, in the Arabian Gulf for two years.

Yousif Sheronick (darbuka, riqq, frame drums)
Is a world music specialist who appears internationally as soloist, chamber musician and collaborative artist with world-renowned groups and artists such as Philip Glass, Glen Velez and Handance, Foday Musa Suso, Simon Shaheen and Qantara, Ethos Percussion Group, The Flow, New York City Ballet, Battery Dance Company and Music from China. He has performed in such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, Royal Festival Hall (London), Wigmore Hall (London) and New York's Town Hall. Encompassing a wide range of styles including ethnic, jazz, rock, and chamber music, Mr. Sheronick specializes in percussion instruments from around the globe. Distinguished collaborators have included Yo-Yo Ma, Branford Marsalis, Pandit Samir Chatterjee, Marcel Khalife, Sonny Fortune, Pacifica String Quartet, David Krakauer, John LaBarbara, Steve Gorn and Alessandra Belloni. Festival appearances include the JVC Jazz Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, Spoleto Festival USA, Lincoln Center "Out Of Doors", Jazztel (Madrid), Salisbury Festival (England), Territorios Urbanos (Seville, Spain), Renaissance Festival (Rethymno, Greece) and Early Music Festival (Regensburg, Germany). Mr. Sheronick has performed live on NPR's "Performance Today" and John Shaffer's "New Sounds." He is an active clinician giving masterclasses and facilitating drum circles around the country. Mr. Sheronick has often been called upon to premiere works by today's leading composers, including Michael Daugherty and Zhou Long, as well as Mr. Velez and Mr. LaBarbera. He has recorded for film and commercials as well as for Ellipsis Arts, Koch International, PGM, Newport Classics and Interworld Music record labels. Mr. Sheronick holds degrees from Yale University and the University of Iowa and serves on the faculty of Concordia Conservatory.

Smadar Levi (backup vocals)
Grew up in Israel, after the army she traveled to Switzerland where she was a private assistant to opera singer Varda Kotler. In New York she studied acting and musical theater. In the year 2000 she formed a Moroccan band and performed regularly at "Tagine" with Mr. Rachid Halihal. Currently, she is working on her record with Mr. Shai Bachar and collaboration of various musicians including Tamir Muskat and Yoel Ben-Simhon. Levi performs Moroccan-gypsy music, a blend of original and new music.

Leanne Darling (viola)
Draws from her classical technique, her Arabic and jazz skills, and her passion for improvisation to break the boundaries of traditional viola playing. Leanne has performed as soloist and chamber musician in England, Austria, Slovenia, France, and throughout the US in art galleries, film theaters, clubs, and concert halls. Prior to moving to New York, Leanne was violist of the New Artists Piano Quartet and assistant principal violist of the Florida West Coast Symphony. Leanne began improvising and experimenting with jazz, blues and Arabic music seven years ago. She performs regularly in rock and world music bands, string quartets, free jazz ensembles and composes works for solo viola and looping device. She is currently studying classical Arabic music with virtuoso oudist and violinist Simon Shaheen, and jazz improvisation with Julie Lyonn Lieberman. Recent appearances include a performance with Simon Shaheen at Joe’s Pub and at Carnegie Hall, a collaboration with dancers at Dixon place in New York, and a featured performance at the 2003 ASTA National Conference in Columbus, OH. When not performing, Leanne teaches improvisation to young string players in Harlem.

Harel Shachal (saxophones, zurna, nay, G clarinet)
Started to study saxophone in Israel with the great Saxophone player Albert Piamenta. Harel was exposed to the art of Middle-Eastern music, learning the system of maqams and quarter tones from one of the masters of this music on the Saxophone. He also studied composition at the "Rimon" school for Jazz and Contemporary music in Israel. In 1998 Harel released his first solo record, Various, just before he moved to New York. Harel continued his composition studies with Edward Green and later enrolled in the New School Jazz and Contemporary Program where he got his B.F.A in Jazz Performance, studying on scholarship with teachers such as Jane Ira Bloom, Jim Snidero, Billy Harper, George Garzone, Jamey Haddad and Steve Wilson. While continuing his studies, Harel joined the band, Hypnotica, and performed with his Middle Eastern Jazz trio. He also played for the theatre production "No Exit" by Jean Paul Sartre, and performed on the score for the feature film "First We Take Manhattan." In the spring of 2002 Harel formed his own band, ANISTAR. Harel is a faculty member at the New School Jazz and Contemporary Program, where he is the Director of the World Music/Middle Eastern Ensemble. He is recording and performing regularly with many bands and artists in New York, including his Jazz Trio, The MEJ Trio, Klezska, the Cardamon Quartet and his own Middle Eastern Jazz Orchestra, ANISTAR. He performs regularly in venues such as Tonic, Tichman Hall, The Knitting Factory, Satalla, The NJPAC, and The J.C.C. to name a few.

Daphna Mor (flute, nay, recorders)
Originally from Tel Aviv, Israel, recorder player Daphna Mor began her music studies at the age of eight. Ms. Mor has been seen in performances throughout Europe, Israel and the United States. Awards and performances include a solo recital in Wiesbadden, Germany; Recital at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts and Trininty Church, New York; Performance with The New York Collegium, Monteverdi Vespers with Washington Bach Ensemble, Harry Christophers-guest conductor; First Prize in the Settimane Musicali de Lugano Solo Competition; Twice the winner of the Boston Conservatory Concerto Competition 1996, 2000; Boston and Solo performance with 'Groppo Concertistico della Svizzera Italiana" Switzerland; Ms. Mor has received her Bachelor of Music degree from the boston Conservatory with highest honors, as Valedictorian of the class of 2000. She has been studying since childhood under Prestigious Early Music Specialists as Marion Verbruggen, Leo Meilnik, Sebastian Marq and Padro Memelsdorf in various International workshops. She is a graduate of Thelma Yelin School For the Arts, and was awarded the prestigious status of "Privileged Musician" for her army service with the Israeli Defense Force. Her teaching experience include positions in The Education Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Coaching for the American Recorder Society Workshops and Faculty position at Jerusalem International Early Music Workshop. Ms. Mor is a strong advocate for Contemporary Music for the recorder. She has premiered numerous new pieces for solo recorder and different ensembles. Ms Mor is a founding member of The New Amsterdam Recorder Trio Other than her dedication to Early Music, Ms. Mor has been involved in recording and performances of Film Scoring, popular, and world music.

Liron Peled (percussion)
Was born in the Golan Heights, Israel. He started playing drums at 10 years old and continued his studies of drum set, classical percussion, xylophone and marimba at the klor conservatory, Israel. Liron graduated from "Emek Hahula" School Of Music in 1997 and moved to NY in 1998 where he began to play Middle-Eastern hand drums. In NYC Liron works as a drummer/percussionist and a producer in his own studio. He is involved in numerous projects including the rock band EMOK. Liron has played in venues such as Spirit NY (formerly known as Twilo), Prospect Park Band Shell (Brooklyn, NY), CIBC Stage (Toronto) and Hangar 11 (Israel) and has appeared on Israeli television and on NBC morning news.

Ramzi Edlibi (percussionist, dabka dancer)
As a Dancer Ramzi Edlibi has perform around the world, with major productions. In Europe, Japan, the Middle east and the United States. As a percussionist Ramzi had performed with the leading musicians such as Simon Shaheen, Jihad Raci, Bassam Saba... Ramzi Edlibi is the Artistic Director of Dance Around the World, an arts in education program, that bring the art of dance to the students of the public schools.

Carlos Revollar (flamenco guitar)
Born and raised in New York City, studied Classical and Flamenco guitar with Dennis Koster, Antonio "Canito" Suarez, Manuel Perez, Jesus Torres, and Luis Heredia. He has performed with many dance companies and performers: Calota Santana's Flamenco Vivo, Maria Loreta's Sol y Sombra, Eva Lucena's Alborada Spanish Dance, Andrea Del Conte's Danza Espana, Danzas Españolas, Elena La Comadre (Toronto), Flamenco Latino, The Val Ramos Flamenco Ensemble, La Conja's Mimbre y Vareta, and his own Fiesta Flamenca. Mr. Revollar has also worked with Jose Fernandez (Granada, Spain), Nelida Tirado, Cristo Cortez, Repompa De Malaga, Yloy Ybarra, Luis Vargas, Paco Ortiz, Elena Andujar, Carmen La Salao, La Meira, Olympia Estrella, Silverio Heredia to name a few. Carlos Revollar also worked with Two River Theatre Company's production of Federico Garcia Lorca's, Blood Wedding with Noche Flamenca's Martin Santangelo in Manesquan, New Jersey. He has also performed with Shugeko Suga 's production of Satoba Komachi in La Mama Theatre in NYC. Mr. Revollar was also a guitarist on the Off Broadway's theatre named Theatre East Flamenco Extravaganza. Mr. Revollar was featured in Emeril Live Cooking Cable TV Show, Univision' s Channel 41, Noticiero Al Despertar, and Radio WADO's radio program "Sin Sensura" with Miguel Perez, and Fox Five Morning Show with Mission Impossible's Antonio Vargas. Other works include recordings with Toni Braxton, 1800Collect, Sarah Aroeste, Val Ramos, Lorena Garay, Yoel Ben-Simhon. Carlos Revollar performs in Flor de Sol on Tuesdays in Tribeca, NYC for the past four years. On Fridays, he performs in Tapas de España in North Bergen, NJ for the past six years. He has worked or still works in Xunta Tapas Bar, Meson Flamenco, Ñ, Taperia Madrid, Las Brasas, Castillo Español, Alegrias, La Nacional, to name a few. Carlos is a founding member of Fiesta Flamenca.

Gisele Assi Revollar (flamenco dancer)
Was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She began her Modern Dance and Ballet studies in 1976. She studied Martha Graham technique until 1998. She began dancing Flamenco in 1987 in Sao Paulo. In 1990, and again in 1996 she went to Madrid, Spain to study at Amor De Dios Studio with Maria Magdalena, Tomas De Madrid, Ciro, Carmela Greco, Paco Romero, Christian Galia, Maruja Palacios. Since 1999, in New York City, she has studied Flamenco dance with Nelida Tirado, La Meira, Soledad Barrios, La China, Ana Romero, Raquel Heredia to name a few. Gisele learned voice and Flamenco singing with Naila Aziz, Elena Andujar. In Brazil, Gisele taught Flamenco, and Modern Dance from 1989 to1998 at Oficina de Danza, and S.E.S.C. de Sao Paulo. She taught in her own studio from 1997 to 1999. Gisele danced as a professional Flamenco Dancer with Angela Mari Menta's Tarantos Co. De Arte y Baile Flamenco, and with Laurita De Castro's Flamenco Co. in Brazil from 1988 to1996. Since 1999, she has been performing in New York: She was the lead dancer in Two River Theatre Co's production of Lorca's Blood Wedding in August to October, 1999 in Manasquan, New Jersey. Gisele performed as one of the featured dancers in the Off Broadway's Theatre East show "Flamenco Extravaganza". She has worked for Carlota Santana's Flamenco Vivo, Eva Lucena's Alborada Spanish Dance Co. as a principal dancer and choreographer. Her work includes singer and dancer for Fiesta Flamenca, Danzas Españolas and Val Ramos Flamenco Ensemble. Gisele has also been doing many presentations with Teatro Si in New Jersey. She has performed both as singer and dancer in many Tablaos through out New York , New Jersey and Connecticu! Since 2002, Gisele Revollar has been teaching at Ballet Hispanico, Third Street Music School, and Times Circle Studio in New York


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