Shamma's interest in the oud awoke already at 11 years of age, when he was a young boy in the city Kut on the Tigris river. Since then he has become a world-renowned master of the instrument.
The classical 'oud has six strings, but Shamma has constructed an 8-string 'oud following a manuscript of the 9th century music theorist Al-Farabi, expanding the musical range. (Read more about it and see Farabi's manuscript at Shamma's official website.)
He has also developed a new method of playing the 'oud with only one hand (something that was originally invented by the Iraqi 'oud master Salim Abdulkarim), so that children and soldiers who have lost one arm in war could play the 'oud.
Here, Naseer Shamma is performing "رقصة الفرس" ("When the mare is dancing"):
And here, he demonstrates his one-handed 'oud technique (clip originally from Mike's ouds):
Shamma has lived in exile in Cairo since 1993, but remains conscious of the plight of his fellow countrymen, 4.2 million of whom are refugees, both within Iraq and in neighbouring countries, mainly Syria and Jordan. In December he helped launch a 90-day fundraising campaign to aid Iraqi refugees, in cooperation with the League of Arab States and UNHCR. Back in October, Shamma had approached the League of Arab States offering to help after watching a documentary on Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries:
"I have not been able to sleep more than four or five hours a day since that documentary," he said, sitting at his office in a 14th-century house in Cairo's Islamic quarter, where he founded a school to teach youngsters how to play the oud, the Arab cousin of the European lute.
"Winter is approaching. I cannot imagine myself sleeping on a comfortable bed while others are cold, cannot afford medicine or dinner," he said in an interview on Monday. (Reuters)
Read more about the campaign.