Friday, July 24, 2009

Birth of a Palestinian Violin

Shehade Shalade's road to becoming the first Palestinian violinmaker is maybe an unlikely one. Living in a region where classical music is small but rapidly growing, Shehade, 18, was fortunate to have the al-Kamandjati music school established next door to his house in Ramallah in the West Bank. "I had always been interested in fixing things, like doors, windows and chairs," he says. Ramzi Aburedwan, the founder of al-Kamandjati, saw Shehade's potential and asked him if he would like to work with musical instruments.

Shehade was at first interested in the oud, a Arabic plucked instrument similar to the guitar, and later moved to violin. He concurrently started working in the workshop that al-Kamandjati set up for instrument repair a few meters away from the school. Al-Kamandjati is fortunate to have a large amount of foreign expertise coming to assist the school, and Shehade was able to study with technicians who taught him how to repair string instruments and bows.

In 2008 his teacher, Gianlucco Negroponte, advised him to study in Italy in order to learn the art of violinmaking. Shehade began studying in Italy in July and by September had finished his first violin, which he uses himself. "It was difficult but I was so happy when I finished. Palestine has never had a violin-maker before."

Shehade has recently been working on a second violin, which he will give to Ramzi to showcase around Europe. He has been working on this model for a month, and will need about two more weeks before it is completed.

In September Shehade will be going to London to study instrument making for three years. Afterward he plans to come back to Palestine and teach children here violinmaking and instrument repair.

I asked him what the community around him thinks of his work. "At first they were hesitant. Nobody does something like this here, doing this type of job. I told them that I want to try, because it is something I love."


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