Starnes&Shah, featuring vocal wife-and-wife duo Dania Abu-Shaheen (singer/songwriter/guitarist) and Zilpha Starnes Abu-Shaheen (keyboards/vocals), was formed in Astoria, NY in 2005. Bring a poet/songwriter from Lebanon together with a choirgirl from Dallas, Texas, and you get a unique musical counterpoint.

Photo by Manal Abu-Shaheen
Photo by Manal Abu-Shaheen

The songs range from pared-down acoustic ballads to rock anthems complete with choral arrangements and layered guitar effects. They are stories rendered with Dania’s poetry and music. Zilpha’s harmonies play between exchange and tension to produce a signature sound.

When they became new parents in 2015, Starnes&Shah brought their creative process closer to home, literally—they recorded their fifth album in their basement during baby naps. The album, “Soon You Will Grow ” (2016), explores personhood through the lenses of parenthood and familial relationships, gnarled as they may be. In the years that followed, the family grew and life just got busier (the duo played their last show in NYC in 2017 while Dania was seven months pregnant). Now, they’re back with new music, and their six full-length album, “a very small task,” is slated for release in the fall of 2020. The album is a diary of life’s balancing act, as Dania (Shah) writes from the perspective of a working mother, an expat with a fading sense of home, an artist with a day job, and a woman in the last years of her thirties.

Starnes&Shah have also released an acoustic EP titled “Here Again on the Island” (2006) and four additional full-length albums, “Summer in the Woodshed” (2007), “Pink White Blue Green” (2009), “Red Brick Tide” (2011), and “Shilling For Dreamtown” (2013) featuring full band arrangements. “Shilling For Dreamtown” explores themes of loss and new beginnings in a musical narrative which tells the story of being them: struggling artists, working women, loyal partners, yearning expats and much more. “Red Brick Tide” packs a rock’n’roll punch with vocal and compositional complexity. Quirky synthesizers and hard-driving guitars augment the duo’s trademark harmonies to conjure up nuanced narratives.

S&S have played shows in Northeastern cities including Burlington, Portland, Boston, Philadelphia, and their current home city, New York. They continue to play regular shows in New England and New York.