Model Role Details

Issa Boulos

Issa Boulos

Sector : Cultural Figures , Singers / Musicians

Personal Info

  • Country of residence: Palestine
  • Gender: Male
  • Born in: 1968
  • Age: 48
  • Curriculum vitae :


Born in Jerusalem, Palestine, 1968. Palestinian 'ud player, composer and teacher Issa Boulos comes from a family of both musical and literary traditions and began to study voice at the age of 7. At that early age, Issa showed extraordinary talent in singing Arab classical maqam repertoire. At the age of 13 he enrolled in the Institute of Fine Arts in Ramallah to study the 'ud with Abu Raw`hi 'Ibaidu. He graduated in 1985 and worked in Ramallah as an arranger and performer of both folksongs and contemporary works and a musician in the ensemble of Sariyyat Ramallah Troup for Music and Released al-'Ashiq in 1986; and with al-Ra`hhâla (with composer Jamil al-Sayih) he released Rasif al-Madinah in 1989. During the early 1990s, Issa pursued music composition more intensely as it offered him more flexible means of artistic expression and richer musical sonorities and textures. Essentially, he started exploring Western-music's principals of composition and orchestration and incorporated various aspects of what he learned into his own music. He managed to keep his art in line with the sensibilities of Palestinian musical taste and maintained a pivotal link with the maqam tradition. From 1991 to 1993, Issa composed over 200 instrumental and vocal pieces and one large-scale extended work entitled Kawkab Akhar. This era was the most experimental, challenging and yet prolific. He was appointed director of Birzeit University's musical group Sanabil in addition to training al-Funoun Popular Dance Troupe and Sariyyat Ramallah Troupe for Music and Dance. This era was the most experimental, challenging and yet prolific. His fascination with music towards higher levels of expression and interpretation encouraged him to examine other aspects of music-making, and simultaneously broaden his artistic perspective.  To express some of these issues musically, and after over 8 years of living in both Ramallah and Chicago, in 1994, he settled in Chicago and enrolled in the music composition program at Columbia College Chicagoand studied music composition with Gustavo Leone and Athanasios Zervas and later at Roosevelt University with Robert Lombardo and Ilya Levinson. Enriched by the previous ensemble's musical experiences, in 1998, he founded the Issa Boulos Ensemble and continued to perform his original contemporary compositions that ranged at that time from maqam compositions to jazz.

With this Ensemble, Issa Boulos's notoriety went well beyond Palestine and he continued his lifelong far-reaching musical journey performing his own original music. After completing his Masters in 2000, he spent one year in his hometown where he was active as a composer, educator, 'udist, and instructor of Western music theory and history, 'ud, chorus, ensemble and theory of Arab music at the National Conservatory of Music, Ramallah.

 Issa has given workshops and lecture-demonstrations at several American institutions and colleges including the University of Chicago, Yale, and Michigan Univesity. He is cofounder of Sama Music, leader of the al-Sharq Ensemble, the Issa Boulos Ensemble, member in Lingua Musica and Nawa Ensemble, founder of the Arab Classical Music (ACMC)Society (ACMS), and has recently been appointed director of the University of Chicago Middle East Music Ensemble.


Achievements and Awards

Although he has continued to write instrumental and vocal compositions, Boulos is best known for his theme works: Kawkab Akhar (1993), a large-scale instrumental work that captured his early stylistic development composed during the Palestinian Intifada, which was followed by 'Arus al-Tira (1994), composed while he was an undergraduate, Samar (1998), and his extended work al-Hallaj (2000) which is a series of composed Sufi poems penetrating the philosophy and tragic ending of   Abu al-Mughith al-Husayn Ibn Mansur al-`Hallaj. His subsequent works include traditional Arab compositions and arrangements, jazz, and film and theatre scores, notably those for Lysistrata 2000, Catharsis and recently the film The New Americans. In one of his orchestral compositions, Shortly After Life, Boulos used a variety of Western classical compositional techniques; the work is a tribute to his father Ibrahim Boulos. Boulos's music still depends extensively on the melodic material of maqam; by treating this material through improvisations and using various musical techniques. His blend of tradition and innovation has forged important musical links between the Arab world and the West. Issa continues to be involved with ACMC that he established in 2003. As for his current personal projects, Issa is applying final touches on his new work Rif for kemence and percussion.It will be released later in the Spring of 2006. He is a recipient of many awards and fellowships including the 2006 Artists Fellowship Award by the Illinois Arts Council and the 2006 Palestinian Cultural Fund Award. Issa held the position of a lecturer at the University of Chicago where he directed the Middle East Music Ensemble until 2010. He is currently the Head of the Arab Music Department at the newly established Qatar Music Academy.

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