We are devastated to report that one of our leading faculty members, nay and flute virtuoso Bassam Saba, passed away on December 4, 2020 from COVID-19 complications. Bassam was a founding faculty member of the Arabic Music Retreat. His passing is a great loss not only to his family, but to all those connected with the Arabic Music Retreat and Arabic music.
Bassam came to the U.S. in the early 1990’s after studying at the Moscow Conservatory. He met Simon Shaheen and immediately began playing concerts with Shaheen’s Near Eastern Music Ensemble.
In addition to teaching at the Retreat, Mr. Saba led the acclaimed NY Arabic Orchestra. He taught workshops and led ensembles at several institutions including Harvard University. In addition to nay and flute, Bassam also played oud and violin. He taught students privately and developed a reputation for encouragement and for imparting his strong sense of musicality. He performed with many of the greats of Arabic music including Fairuz, Simon Shaheen, and Marcel Khalifeh. He was also asked to participate in the acclaimed Silk Road Project. His compositions bridged the traditional soul of Arabic music with jazz and classical music. At the time of his death he was the President of the Lebanese National Higher Conservatory of Music in Beirut.
The following bio is from the website of the Silk Road, of which Bassam was a key member.
Bassam Saba of Lebanon is a world-renowned virtuoso, multi-instrumentalist, and leading figure of Arabic music. Saba studied nay, oud, and violin at the Lebanon National Conservatory. He received his BA in Western Classical Music and Flute Performance at the Conservatoire Municipal des Gobelins in Paris, and Masters in Western Flute Performance and Music Education from the Gnessin Musical Pedagogical Institute in Moscow. Saba has toured extensively with the renowned Diva of the Arab World, Fairouz, as well as with Marcel Khalife, Simon Shaheen, and Ziad Rahbani.
He has collaborated with classical and pop stars such as Yo-Yo Ma, Sting, Alicia Keys, and Santana, and jazz icons such as Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones. Saba, one of the most sought-after teachers of Arabic music, co-founded and directs the New York Arabic Orchestra. Saba has been invited to perform as a soloist for the Hanover Philharmonic, Qatar Philharmonic, Beirut Philharmonic, Zurich Orchestra and East Oakland Bay Symphony, among others.
We send our condolences to Bassam’s family and are planning a memorial for later in the year. Rest in peace, Maestro Bassam.