The oud virtuoso Rabih Abou Khalil was born in Beirut Lebanon in 1957 and grew up during the two decades when Beirut was on of the most cosmopolitan of all cities. He studied traditional Arabic music on the oud, western classical music on the flute and was exposed at home to both rock and jazz. In 1978 he moved to Munich Germany due to the Lebanese civil war and continued his study of classical flute. In fact he played flute on his first albumcalled Compositions & Improvisations
recorded in 1981 but shortly afterwards he switched to the oud which he plays on all his subsequent recordings. The oud is a traditional Arab musical instrument and is the predecessor to both the lute and the guitar. It looks like a lute with 5-6 double strings of either nylon or gut. It is the quintessential compositional instrument in Arabic musical heritage.
Rabih Abou-Khalil not only integrated classical Arabic musical ideas into western improvisational music and jazz but also started experimenting with traditional musical genres from other parts of the world. In his first seven recordings for Enja, MMP and ECM he experimented with fusing traditional Arabic musical ideas and scales with jazz. With Al-Jadida and Blue Camel both recorded in the early 90s he started introducing Turkish musical elements into jazz. He continued to experiment with Arabic, Turkish and Western musical forms fused with jazz until 2004 when another career defining CD Morton’s Foot was released. On this record he adds the accordion of Luciano Biondini and the vocals of Sardinian singer Gavino Murgia whose style is reminiscent of Tibetan throat singing.
In the late 90s he hosted Visions of Music a 13-part documentary series that explored through musician interviews and film footage the blending of jazz with different world traditional music including Caribbean salsa, Brazilian samba, Argentine tango, French musette, Spanish flamenco, Jewish klezmer, African, Indian and Arabic music, and New Orleans R&B.
He has performed in over 100 music festivals worldwide and has worked with an international cast of musicians including Sonny Fortune, Kenny Wheeler, Glenn Velez and Steve Swallow. In addition to composing, performing and recording music he designs his own CD covers in the traditional style of Arabic calligraphy and non-figurative art.
He lives in Munich with his wife and 2 children.
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