Yousef Shamoun was born in Aleppo, Syria. Aleppo is home to a strong tradition of composing and singing the Muwashshahat and the Qudud Halabiya. It is also known for its Tarab, a musical style which means “enchantment.” Yousef belongs to the school of great Aleppian singers such as Sabah Fakhri,Mohamad Khairy, Bakry Kurdi, and Omar Al-Batsh. He was also inspired by the Syriac tradition of religious chanting.
Yousef is known for both his mastery of the mawwal (non-metric vocal improvisation) and for his powerful rendition of the Arabic Maqam. Youssef is passionate about both preserving the classical tradition of Muwashshahat while also experimenting and innovating with their style and structures. As an active member of the Syrian-American community, Youssef has performed in several events and countries throughout the US, as well as Canada, Europe and the Middle East.
Tarab Ensemble is a project that Yousef & Saphe started to celebrate Tarab and to celebrate Muwashshahat and Kudud Halabia. The Tarab Ensemble mainly performs Arabic Maqam and specializes in the Aleppian repertoire (Muwashshahat and Qudud Halabiya). Tarab— often translated as musical enchantment, rapture or ecstasy— is a genre of Arabic music that refers to a state of musical and emotional enchantment experienced by its listeners. Our project seeks to shed light on this beautiful genre of Arabic music. Often considered to be the epitome of songs in the Arab world—especially in the Levant— the Muwashshahat are strophic poems set to music. Of Andalusian inspiration, they treat the themes of love, longing and spirituality. They continue to be cherished and even composed by Syrians at home and abroad. The Qudud Halabiya are lighter songs in both standard and colloquial Arabic that are well-known around the Arab world today. The Ensemble has been performing a series of nights of Tarab at several venues including Columbia University, Princeton University, Harvard University, Rubin Museum of Art which was organized by My Dream Speaks, (le) Poisson Rouge in New York, as well as at the Turaath Night organized by the Arab-Anti-Discrimination Committee Gala in Washington D.C., among other venues and events. Those concerts carried an important musical, cultural and social message.