Middle Eastern Music Blog, Podcasts

Danny Shamoun: Drums, Darbuka & Ney

Danny Shamoun, a Los-Angeles based multi-instrumentalist originally from Detroit, talks about how he got interested in and started performing Middle Eastern Music and how he made the jump to Los Angeles to pursue music professionally. He shares the story on how he performed with System of a Down (SOAD) for the first time, joined Daron Malakian’s Scars of Broadway project as a keyboardist and how he learned the Ney. Danny also shares with us his new release “Seaside Sultress” and what’s in store for the future.

Topics include:

  • Discussion of how Shamoun’s interest in music blossomed early, from the very young age of 3 with listening and watching to an Ibraham Tatlises video
  • Shamoun’s youth in Detroit featured exposure to various ethnic groups like Chaldeans, Lebanese, Syrians, etc., and his parents frequently attended Arabic music banquets as opposed to rock concerts like what he saw others doing around him
  • Shamoun was impacted by seeing musicians and their lifestyle and that influenced his interest in music, and he also noticed a little bit of “funk” from the music scene which piqued his interest
  • At a local community festival, Shamoun was goaded into playing the dumbek on stage with the Levendes, a prominent Greek ensemble based out of the Detroit area, and he started to take note of the various time signatures and began learning about Greek music and prominent Greek singers
  • Over time, Shamoun took his practicing quite seriously and began studying with Johnny Seduwet to learn music theory which prepared him very well for the rest of his musical career
  • Shamoun later traveled from Detroit to California and became involved in the music scene through an introduction to hard rock band One Side Zero, where he was able to meet and work with Ray Mayorga and was also introduced to John Dolmayan from System of a Down, and other bands such as Viza and The Apex Theory, and even a brush with Metallica
  • Shamoun was invited to perform with System of a Down on stage to do a dumbek solo during various shows, which was very inspirational to him as an aspiring musician, which led to his relationship with System guitarist Daron Malakian and his eventual work with Malakian’s side project Scars on Broadway
  • Shamoun began working with System with PA work and Malakian’s guitar pedal controls during System concerts, which really helped him learn about production and sound and became good friends with Mike Bordin from Faith No More as they all toured together
  • Shamoun then began work with Scars on Broadway and expanded from dumbek and percussion to keyboard playing to round out the band’s sound
  • Shamoun came full circle from his music theory training with Seduwet as a youth and applied his knowledge on the keyboard, including his makam training which he could play on his Yamaha PSR 62 (which can play quarter tones), and then began taking piano lessons at the suggestion of Malakian and studied with Howard Richmond in Los Angeles which improved his playing
  • Shamoun really focused on practicing and studying and preparing for Scars recordings and tours
  • Discussion of Shamoun as a unique musician with his background and involvement in both middle eastern music and rock music
  • Shamoun then turned his attention to the Ney (Middle Eastern flute), which expanded his musical horizons dramatically and Shamoun recorded Ney on Viza’s Aria record
  • Ali Jihad Rasy at UCLA took Shamoun under his wing where Shamoun was able to key in on his Ney playing and also Shamoun started scoring films, in particular for a movie named “The Queen of the Desert” with such actors as Nicole Kidman, Daniel Day-Lewis and James Franco
  • Shamoun recently released an original song and music video where his percussion and Ney work are featured in “Seaside Sultress”, part of his ambient music projects for film scoring
  • Shamoun’s group “The Global Trance Ensemble” is on various social media platforms
  • Shamoun also worked at a studio in Detroit where he ran into master kanunist Ara Topouzian which involved so much experience learning about studio life and techniques which had an enormous impact on his musical development
  • Discussion of the uniqueness of the Ney with a double reed sound and embouchure technique which is exceedingly difficult to make a tone on the Ney, and the similarities in the spirit of the “freshwater” instruments made of wood such as the oud
  • Podcast listeners can enjoy the end of the podcast which features Shamoun’s track “Seaside Sultress”