Multi-instrumentalist, serial collaborator, musical explorer: Khyam Allami is a musician and composer with a formidable and continually growing international reputation. A man of many talents, and one of the Arab world's most active musicians, Allami is known primarily as an oud player, but this is only tapping the surface. A multi-instrumentalist, composer, Nawa Recordings label founder, researcher and secret audio engineer Allami also performs as a drummer with Tamer Abu Ghazaleh, and is a member of the band Alif, which he co-founded.
Born in Damascus in 1981 to Iraqi parents Allami moved to London at the age of 9 where he grew up. He began his musical path by studying the violin for a minor role in the Syrian arthouse film Al-Tahaleb (Rimon Butros 1990)and moved on to guitar, bass and drums during his teens in London before continuing as a drummer in various punk, metal, post-rock and progressive rock bands (Art of Burning Water, Ursa, Knifeworld).
In 2004 he began to study oud and Arabic music with Ehsan Emam in London, followed by private classes across Istanbul and Cairo with Mehmet Bitmez, Naseer Shamma at Beit al-Oud, Hazem Shaheen and Abdo Dagher. During this period he gained both a BA and Masters in Ethnomusicology from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London where he continued teaching for a couple of years after his graduation. In the same period he was also chosen as the first protege of BBC Radio 3's prestigious World Routes Academy mentorship scheme which saw Allami perform at London's Royal Albert Hall, broadcast live.
Following the release of his debut oud solo album, the critically acclaimed Resonance/Dissonance (2011) he began incessantly traveling, living, performing and creating projects across the Arab world and Europe. In 2012 he instigated and managed the short-lived "Sound of Iraq" project, an initiative to create an Iraqi National Sound Archive as a digital sound library at the Iraqi National Library and Archives in Baghdad with support from the British Library Sound Archive and the British Institute for the Study of Iraq in London.
In 2014 Allami fully launched his Nawa Recordings label, with Maurice Louca's seminal album, Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan (Salute the Parrot), which he mixed. In the same period he composed, produced and mixed the music for Leyla Bouzid's award winning film As I Open My Eyes/A peine j'ouvre les yeux which went on to received over 25 international awards including the Audience Award at Venice Days - Venice International Film Festival, Best Film award at Dubai International Film Festival and Best Film Music Award at Festival du Cinéma et Musique de Film de La Baule. The same year also saw the release of Alif's debut album, Aynama-Rtama to wide critical acclaim.
Currently Khyam Allami is based in Beirut, continuing his performance and composition career whilst running Nawa Recordings and working as a resident engineer alongside Jawad Chaaban at One Hertz Studios. His latest projects include recording Raed El Khazen's debut album, Ghosts and Shadows, and recording & mixing Tamer Abu Ghazaleh's second album, Thulth. He is also plotting his long-overdue second album which will see him exploring his unique multi-faceted and multi-instrumental vision of a truly contemporary Arabic music that is inspired by the past but has its feet fully grounded in the 21st century.
Khyam Allami's new project "Amygdala" features Layale Chaker (Violin), Christine Zayed (Qanun) Daniele Camarda (Bass Guitar), and Andrea Belfi (Drums & Percussions). It's a cinematic and soundtrack-inspired exploration of Arabic electro-acoustic plucked strings and microtonal synthesis, as equally influenced by Popol Vuh and Gustavo Santaollala as by Middle Eastern maqam and the slow complex rhythmic cycles of the Andalusian muwashshahat.
Amygdala was originally comissioned by AFAC - The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture and debuted as part of their Wish You Were Here summer film festival in Berlin on 17 August 2017.
"Attractive, fluently played and deserves to find its listeners.” (The Wire)
“[Khyam Allami] epitomises the best of the new generation of Oud players whose roots lie in the Eastern tradition but who also judiciously draw on a wider range of contemporary influences...his compositions are utterly bewitching.” (Top of the World 5/5 – Songlines)
“With its constant changes of mood and direction, Khyam Allami's debut album is a firm reminder of the Oud's potential,” (The Guardian)
“From its deep and very deliberately plucked opening notes to the final extended fade on Reverie, this is not only a vibrant and engaging piece of music, but a work of surprising maturity.” (fRoots Magazine)
“This is his debut album and it shows Allami to be a master of the Arabic Oud (lute), with a slow magisterial opening, full of rich sonorities. The CD is entirely solo oud, with [An Alif/An Apex], its most Avant-garde track, at its centre. Using traditional Arabic scales, Allami shows how innovative the music can be. A musician worth catching live.” (Evening Standard)
“The lilting melodies and meditative sounds display Khyam’s diverse and remarkable creative talents. A great album that might turn you into an oud fan!” (Verge Magazine)
“The presentation of Resonance/Dissonance gives absolutely nothing away, meaningwise; however the overwhelming darkness of this music says it all.” (The Liminal)
Territory: Europe → Simon Wojan
Available for festivals 2018