About us

‘SAMAR’ a group of musicians who share their passion for playing and meeting each other through music.

The idea started with oud/arabic lute player Amer Shanati and percussion player Karim Darwish sharing a dream to create a new musical sound with the combination of oriental music and other musical styles.

Karim and Amer met contrabass player Martijn Willemsen who loved the idea and joined the group with big excitement.

The project started with the trio until they encountered singer and pianist Stephanie Ruijsenaars. After playing together, she happily joined the group, fulfilling the group charm.

We are a family speaking one global language and working together to create music that touches people’s hearts.

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  • Amer Shanati

    Palestinian musician was born in Syria and migrated to the Netherlands in 2014. After loosing his music group in Syria , the dream of Amer was to create a new music group with new style by combining oriental music with other music styles. And that was a starting point for creating SAMAR music group. During his time being in the Netherlands Amer participated with many events like: Het Concertgebouw Amsterdam with NBE , and he performed his music at the Peace Palace ( The Hague ) for five times. And he also played during the freedom festival 2016 at Malieveld ( The Hague ). Plus performing twice in Belgium. He also participated with many organizations like: Hague Talks, Justice and Peace, Amnesty International, Postcards, De Vrolijkheid…

    Amer is working to go global with Samar music group.


  • Stephanie Ruijsenaars

    Got involved in SAMAR, when she worked together with Amer Shanati for the project, “First there was Home”: a musical performance about the search for a lost home, whether one moves to a different country, or stays in his home country that has changed over time. For her, music and singing has always been an anchor point in life. Stephanie is the singer-songwriter Stefka, and accompanies herself on piano. In her musical career, she has travelled from classical singing at the Conservatory in Maastricht, to expressing herself in Spanish, e.g. on her album ‘Del Recuerdo del Amor’, and to coming back to her roots of the Dutch language on her much acclaimed album “..Terwijl ik wachtte”, based on poems of the Dutch writer Joke van Leeuwen.
    In SAMAR, Stephanie enjoys expressing herself naturally, by singing and playing piano, using her voice also as a wordless instrument.
    In this ensemble with inspiring fellow-musicians, she again experiences an enriched feeling of home.


  • Martijn Willemsen

    Started playing bass when his neighborhood band was in need of a bass player. First on a borrowed electric guitar with just four strings, today on a 6 string Alembic bass guitar as well as a 4 string fretless Alembic and a 4 string fretless Tacoma acoustic bass. Searching for the right sound for every piece of music in the various projects he participates in, he eventually studied the double bass with Tjitze Vogel in Utrecht. These days, the double bass is the instrument he mainly uses – as you can see and hear in the music of Samar.

  • Karim Darwish

    Was born in the Hague, the Netherlands from of a Dutch mother and Palestinian father. When he was a teenager he fell in love with Arabic percussion during a vacation in Jerusalem.
    He could not stay away from the darbuka (arabic drum) back home. Through the years he learned a lot about music and rhythm from virtuoso Iraqi musicians as Jamil al Asadi and Latif al Obeidi. As a member of the Iraqi maqam ensemble he performed in festivals and countries as: Jerash (Jordan), WOMAD (London), Beitteddine (Lebanon), Kennedy center (Washington), Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), Kuweit, Dubai, Algeria, France, Spain, etc.

    Together with the musicians of SAMAR he hopes to create a new musical sound.