Renowned Iraqi musician and philanthropist was nominated as Goodwill Ambassador for the Middle East for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in July 2018. Mr Shamma will use his music and public profile in the region to advocate for the rights and dignity of civilians affected by humanitarian crises, and for the humane and dignified treatment of migrants and people displaced around the world.
One of the world’s greatest oud (a member of the lute family) players and composers, Shamma has led many humanitarian initiatives in the region.
When more than 3 million Iraqis were displaced by escalating violence in 2014, Shamma founded the “Ahlna” association to help IDPs. The group provided tents, water, and food parcels in Mosul and other affected governorates.
In 2005, Shamma founded the “Tareek Al Zuhoor” charity dedicated to supporting children in Iraq. The charity provides heart surgeries in India for Iraqi children suffering from congenital heart diseases. During the past decade, the charity treated 800 children. This year, 30 children are operated per month. Currently – Shamma who is also a UNESCO Goodwill ambassador for peace – has initiated a project to renovate 21 public squares in Baghdad and transform them into spaces where families can listen to music and where children can play.
Shamma, born in Kut, a city on the Tigris River in Iraq, holds a Phd in Arts from the Arabic Open University. He began studying the oud aged eleven in Baghdad, graduating from the Baghdad Academy of Music in 1987 and teaching fellow students along the way. Determined to explore the potential of the oud, to take it into territories outside of the traditional, Shamma worked with jazz and classical musicians, celebrating the spirit of East-West dialogue with acclaimed collaborations ranging from Italian lute player, Franco Vobas, to American trumpeter and jazz icon, Wynton Marsalis.
Shamma is the director of the Arab House of the Oud (Beit al-Oud al-Arabi) in Cairo, in Alexandria, in Baghdad, in Abu Dhabi and in Khartoum. “We are building peace through music, maintaining our culture despite incredible violence in our region,” he says.