Galilee Quartet: Playing for peace, love and humanity

From Beethoven symphonies to songs by legendary Arab singers such as Fairuz and Um Kalthoum, the Saad siblings’ exceptional performances have captivated crowds in Europe and in the Middle East

Omar Saad, the viola player who made headlines in 2013 for refusing to serve in the Israeli army, his two violinist brothers, Mostafa and Gandhi, and their cellist sister Tibah make up a classical string quartet – the Galilee Quartet.

From Beethoven symphonies to songs by legendary Arab singers such as Fairuz and Um Kalthoum, the siblings’ exceptional performances have captivated crowds in Europe and in the Middle East. Their political and social struggles have also put them under the spotlight.

The siblings, from the village of Maghar near Nazareth, played their first tunes at a young age. Art and the passion for art runs in the family, Tibah says. “Our parents both shared the same goal of teaching us and giving us this opportunity,” she continues.

The Saad siblings are all members of the Palestine Youth Orchestra, which was established in 2004 by the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music. Last year, they played with the orchestra in venues across the UK, concluding the tour with a concert at London’s Royal Festival Hall where they received a full standing ovation.

 Unforgettable performances

That wasn’t the first time the siblings played in the UK. Omar’s first concert in the country was in 2015, when Amnesty International organised a tour following his release from military prison for refusing the draft seven times. The family quartet has since toured in the UK several times.

In 2013, the three brothers played with the BBC Proms monumental concert with Nigel Kennedy and the Palestine Strings in London’s Royal Albert Hall, winning the hearts of millions in Britain who tuned in for the live broadcast. Their performance was described by the Independent newspaper as “hauntingly beautiful”, while BBC Music Magazine praised their “mesmerising Arabic style”.

Mostafa, who was only 16 years old at the time, went back to play a duet solo with Nigel Kennedy, who hailed him as “a name for the future”, at the Last Night of the Proms.

The quartet’s most recent UK tour was in June 2017. Organised by Palmusic in collaboration with Amos Trust, the quartet held concerts in London and in Oxford. In each they played a number of classical western and Arabic pieces including some by Beethoven, Fairuz, Mohammed Abdel Wahab as well as their own compositions.

It’s nice to see people look at us in a loving way, in a kind of very nice gentle way while we’re playing,” Tibah says, “because they see three brothers and a sister connecting together through music.”

Political struggle

When Mostafa returned to the UK in 2014 to play with Nigel Kennedy once more during Bethlehem Unwrapped, Omar was in military prison.

Like other Druze born with Israeli citizenship, the Saad brothers are eligible for conscription at the age of 18 as per a 1956 Israeli law requiring all Druze males to serve three years of compulsory military service. “We identify ourselves as a part of the Arab, Palestinian nation,” Omar says.

As part of the Palestinian nation, as part of the youth orchestra, I couldn’t see myself replacing my musical instrument with a rifle, and denying my fellow brothers and sisters from entering their cities Jerusalem, Nazareth, Tiberias and Galilee.

His refusal was inspired by similar action taken by his father in the past, and his brother, Mostafa, has now also gained an exemption from military service.

Omar’s open letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2012 explaining why he was a conscientious objector, declaring, “I will not be the fuel to the fire of your war”, went viral. “I declare that I will refuse to serve in the army even if I’m jailed 60 times,” he wrote on Facebook.

“It was a very difficult experience,” Omar explains, describing his struggle inside prison after contracting a liver infection. “Because of the medical negligence I arrived at the hospital in the last moments and after 11 days in the Intensive Care Unit, I was released and sent back home for 40 days.” Upon his recovery, Omar had to go back to complete a total of nine months in prison before being exempt from military service.

“The only thing that kept me going were my family and my friends and also my will to continue in music,” he continues.

“Music is a way of resistance,” Tibah adds. “You need to give the best image of you as a human, and I think music is the best and purest way to do so because music is expression of feelings.”

With the support of Palmusic, Omar and Tibah are now gearing up to study music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow this September. However, their dreams do not stop there.

Omar hopes to one day join a renowned orchestra. “Maybe first viola in a very important orchestra in order to ask for people to come to Palestine and create together a Palestinian institute for higher musical education and arts education,” he explains.

“I hope and I dream that we will be the group that will teach chamber music and viola, violin and cello there,” Omar adds.

Gandhi, the quartet’s youngest member, also dreams of becoming a prominent soloist; “a violin soloist with a great orchestra,” as well as travelling the world with the quartet “to play for peace and love and for humanity.”


The First Palestine Music Expo, Taking Place on April 2017

The First Palestine Music Expo
will be held from April 5-7 2017 in Ramallah, Jerusalem and Haifa.  We hope to shine the spotlight on the budding Palestinian Music Scene and share the beauty of our culture.  It will showcase both established and upcoming Palestinian artists to local audiences and key members of the international music industry.

The First Palestine Music Expo, Taking Place on April 2017

The First Palestine Music Expo, Taking Place on April 2017

These will include record companies, booking agencies, music supervisors, festivals promoters and Media. The Expo will bring artists and professionals together, in an effort to build mutually beneficial relationships and develop valuable networking opportunities in Palestine.

It will include various music genres and showcase performances over two days with a third day put aside for a little fun exploring. The public and our guests are invited to attend these shows in different Palestinian cities and interact with our artists to gain a greater understanding of our music scene and how we create music in Palestine.
All donations raised  will be used to pay for cover travel and accommodation expenses for our delegates as well as production costs associated with running and events and panels.
We wil also set up a $10,000 fund to assist Palestinian musicians with international touring.

Take part in putting the spotlight on Palestinian Music and donate now

GoFundMe: (For donations from all over the world)
Network For Good “Creativevisions” (for US donations with Tax deduction).

All donations are greatly appreciated, and should you choose to donate,  we’d love to include you on our “Contributors Thank You Page”!

LEVEL 1 – FRIEND $Any Amount
Features you on our website/social media

Features you on our website/social media plus 2 tickets to the Palestine Music Expo.

Features you on our website/social media plus 4 tickets to the Palestine Music Expo

Features you on our website/social media plus 4 tickets to the Palestine Music Expo and a tour of Jerusalem during the Expo.

Features you on our website/social media plus 4 tickets to the Palestine Music Expo, a tour of Jerusalem during the Expo and a private Palestinian dinner with the team.

LEVEL 6 – PATRON $2500
Features you on our website/social media plus 4 tickets to the Palestine Music Expo, tour of Jerusalem during the Expo, a private Palestinian dinner with the team as well as a special performance with an artist

Features you on our website/social media plus 4 tickets to the Palestine Music Expo, tour of Jerusalem as well as a private Palestinian dinner with the team, a special performance with a Palestinian artist AND In addition, a panel will be :

*(Gifts do not include flight/accommodation expenses)


Simon Shaheen

Simon Shaheen (1955) is a Palestinian-American oud and violin virtuoso and composer. shaheen_simonThe Shaheen family is known for its musicality with music instructor and father Hikmat, oud-playing and instrument-making brother Najib, violinist and oud playing William, and singing sisters Laura and Rosette. He began playing the oud at 5, and the violin shortly thereafter. 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 performance and music education at Columbia University.

He founded the Near Eastern Music Ensemble and organizes arts festivals and retreats. Shaheen also heads the Arabic Music Retreat, held annually at Mt. Holyoke College’s campus in Massachusetts which brings together a large faculty instructing Arabic music for a week and concludes with a concert.

In 1982, Shaheen formed the Near Eastern Music Ensemble in New York, establishing a group that would perform the highest standard of traditional Arab music. This time also marked the beginning of Shaheen’s workshops and lecture/demonstrations in schools, colleges, and universities to educate the younger generation. As a champion and guardian of Arab music, Shaheen still devotes almost fifty percent of his time to working with schools and universities, including Julliard, Columbia, Princeton, Brown, Harvard, Yale, University of California in San Diego, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and many others.

His concert credits are a veritable compendium of the world’s greatest venues: Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Cairo’s Opera House, Theatre de la Ville in Beirut, and Belgium’s Le Palais des Arts. In May of 2004, Shaheen appeared at Quincy Jones’ “We Are The Future,” fundraising concert in Rome in front of a half million strong crowd.

As a composer, Shaheen has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, Meet the Composer, the Jerome Foundation, Continental Harmony, and Yellow Springs Institute. In addition to his recorded work, his theatrical repertoire includes Majnun Layla, (performances included the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and The Museum of Natural History in New York), The Book and the Stranger (from Kalilah Wa-Dimanah), Possible City, and Collateral Damage with actress Vanessa Redgrave. He has also written the music for the documentary of the British Museum’s Egyptian collection, which has toured U.S. museums.

Since 1994, Shaheen has produced the Annual Arab Festival of Arts, called “Mahrajan al-Fan.” Held in New York, the festival showcases the work of the finest Arab artists, while presenting the scope, depth and quality of Arab culture. To continue this exposure to Arab music and culture, Shaheen founded the Annual Arabic Music Retreat in 1997. Held each summer at Mount Holyoke College, this weeklong intensive program of Arabic music studies draws participants from the U.S. and abroad.

For the past six years, though, Shaheen has focused much of his energies on Qantara . The band, whose name means arch in Arabic, brings to life Shaheen’s vision for the unbridled fusion of Arab, jazz, Western classical, and Latin American music, a perfect alchemy for music to transcend the boundaries of genre and geography.


1990 – Music of Waheeb, Mango/Island/PolyGram
1990 – The Music of Mohamed Abdel Wahab, Axiom/Island/PolyGram
1992 – Turath (Heritage), CMP
1993 – Taqasim: Art of Improvisation in Arabic Music
1996 – Saltanah (with V. M. Bhatt), Water Lily Acoustics
2001 – Blue Flame, Ark 21/Universal


Simon Shaheen Performs ‘Ibnil Balad’