Firas Zreik

Musician in Residence, 2024

Artist-composer, Kanunist and educator Firas Zreik has performed and recorded across the world as a leader and highly sought collaborator since 2013. A sonic revolutionary, the Palestine-born New Yorker has transformed global perception of the Kanun. His treatment of the instrument preserves its identity as a vital part of the Maqam tradition, and stretches its potential as a cultural chameleon enhancing a range of fresh, evolving sounds. He views the Maqam’s improvisation-driven legacy as a vessel for unbound creative expression across musical styles.

Zreik’s music is honest and authentic. His nuanced approach translates the Kanun’s resonant depth of emotion, with a mastery of microtonal soundscaping. Comfortable in both heavily orchestrated and spontaneous settings, he creates waves of layered expression and lyricism among his fellow artists. Over the years, he has collaborated with a cross section of leaders, including Roger Waters, Simon Shaheen, Amir ElSaffar, Fabrizio Cassol, Marwan Khoury, Abeer Nehmeh, Walid Toufic, Elias Karam, Shreya Goshal, Shankar Mahadevan, Aynur Dogan, G.E. Smith, David Broza and his internationally-renowned mother and frequent artistic partner Amal Murkus, for whom he serves as musical director.

In live performance, Zreik conjures a complexity of emotion that shape-shifts throughout his sets. He enters fragile places and sits inside them. This commitment to stark exploration has sent him around the world, performing at storied venues, intimate clubs and international festivals.

He performed all over the US, both as a leader or accompanist at venues such as The Lincoln Center, The Jazz Gallery, Joe’s Pub, Bryant Park, Historic Green-Wood, The Smithsonian Museum, Savannah Music Festival, Hill Auditorium, Boston Symphony Hall and Berklee College of Music.

In Europe, he performed at Festival d’Aix En Provence (France), Institute du Monde Arabe (France), La Bellevilloise (France), Nuoru Jazz Festival (Italy), Teatro Mediterraneo (Italy), Palais de Congres (Belgium), Fete Des Solidarites (Belgium), and most recently, Zreik was selected as an official showcase artist at WOMEX 2022 international music expo in Lisbon, Portugal. He has also performed in the Arab world at The Carthage International Festival in Tunisia, NYU Abu Dhabi, as well as his homeland, Palestine.

Following the release of his two singles “Lullaby for Nature” (Levantine Music) and “Sentiments of Emptiness” (Universal Music Group), in 2020, during the pandemic lockdown, Zreik issued his debut EP Solo (Levantine Music), featuring a shimmering, contemplative set of Kanun music. In Spring 2023, the young artist released “Salute” – his first full-length recording of original music featuring his 8-piece band.

Before arriving in New York in 2020, Zreik received his Bachelor of Arts in Music from Berklee College of Music in Boston — where he received a full presidential scholarship — completing a double major in Performance and Jazz Composition. He has received global recognition for his artistry as a member of the Medinea Network and participant in the 2013 Beit Al-Musica
Guildhall Exchange program in London and the Intercultural Session in both Aix En Provence and Sardinia, Italy in 2017 and 2019, respectively. In 2019, Zreik received coveted placement at the Blue Mountain Center Residency where he served as Artist-in-Residence. Recently, Zreik was chosen as the sole musician for inclusion on the Arab America Foundation’s 30 Under 30 list. In 2020, “Lullaby for Nature” received praise from Makan Radio as Instrumental Piece of the Year. This year (2023) Zreik was the recipient of a Macdowell fellowship, the leading artist residency program in the US.

Zreik credits his spirit of experimentation, in part, to the dedicated instructors who have guided his artistry, including Mahran Moreb, Simon Shaheen, Greg Hopkins, Manuel Kauffmann, Ed Tomassi, Fabrizio Cassol, Bob Pilkington, Eugene Frissen, Leo Blanco and Alain Mallett. A consummate educator himself, Zreik has taught at the Arabic Music Retreat in Western Massachusetts and Circle World Arts in Brooklyn, and delivered workshops at NYU Abu Dhabi, Tufts and Berklee. To stay up to date with Zreik’s performances and tour schedule, visit firaszreik.com and follow him on social media @firaszreik.