Brian Prunka

me playing 'ud . . . and holding the risha wrong--it was a long time ago      I began playing 'ud in 1998, inspired by the jazz-arabic fusion recordings of 'udist Rabih Abou-Khalil. At the time, I had recently received my undergraduate degree in jazz guitar performance from Loyola University in New Orleans (I have since gone on to earn my Master's degree in jazz performance from the University of New Orleans). After learning several of Abou-Khalil's pieces by listening to his records, I decided to try to learn the 'ud. My oud was built for me by Viken Najarian of California, and has been subsequently modified by New York luthier Najib Shaheen .
      After trying learn as much as possible on my own (from listening to recordings), I heard about the Arab Arts Retreat in Massachusetts in 20001 and decided to attend. It was a great experience, I met a lot of wonderful people and returned again in '02 and '03. Through the retreat I have studied with many wonderful teachers including Simon Shaheen, William Shaheen, Jihad Racy, and Rima Khcheich.

     While in New Orleans, I continued playing jazz and earned a Master's degree from the University of New Orleans. Aside from my jazz groups in which I play guitar, I led a jazz/world fusion group in which I strictly played 'ud. We tried to combine Arabic melodic and rhythmic structures with a jazz interpretation and improvisational approach. As a side project, I did an electric version of the same band, in which I played a quarter-tone stratocaster. In the summer of 2003, I moved up to New York to pursue my musical interests. I've been continuing to study with Simon and Najib Shaheen (when possible). Recently I've been studying with Bassam Saba, an excellent nay, 'ud, and violin player who performs frequently with the Shaheens and also teaches at the Arabic music retreat. A new group, the Near East River ensemble, has been evolving from my new contacts in NY, performing original music that is inspired by both the Arabic and Jazz traditions. For my personal website, visit

For a sample of my 'ud playing, click here:
Taqsîm Nahawand (Real Media).
Original Compositions:
'Ajam - RealAudio
'Ajam - mp3
Hijaz Kar Kurd - mp3
Jurjinah Nahawand - mp3
Sephardim - mp3
Other sound samples are available on my website.


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