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Take Five With Nabil Khemir

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Nabil Khemir: Nabil Khemir, composer, guitarist, lute-player and singer. On the June 2, 2007, Khemir was decorated by the President of the Republic of Tunisia for his cultural contribution to the country and his performances. He has invented a new model of double-neck electric guitar & lute, called Rayjam. His music combines Tunisian rhythms and jazz.

Born in Tunisia, Khemir grew up in the metropolis of Tunis with Egyptian music. By listening to famous Tunisan and Egyptian musicians of this era such as the great singer Oum Kalthoum, the composer/singer Mohamed Abdelwahab, the singer and lute-player Ferid El Atrach and Riadh Sombati (lute-player and composer of "Oum Kalthoum ), Khemir pronounced his early words while singing their songs.

At the age of seven, Khemir appeared for the first time in public to sing.

When his brother offered him a lute on the occasion of his ninth birthday, he started to play this instrument.

This self-taught prodigy took some master classes at the age of twelve with the famous lute-player Ali Sriti.

In 1979, he was asked to sing, accompanied by his lute, on a variety of Tunisian television programs for two years.

During his adolescence he was interested by occidental music, and was impressed by great jazzmen including George Benson, Joe Pass, Herb Ellis, John McLaughlin and Pat Metheny. That is how he discovered the guitar that would become his second passion.

Instrument(s): Rayjam: a double-necked electric lute and guitar.

Teachers and/or influences? I'm self-taught. I derive inspiration from classical Egyptian music, funk, rhythm & blues, and modern jazz. My influences are Oum Kalthoum, Ferid ElAtrach, Ali Sriti, Al Jarreau, Charlie Parker, George Benson, John Scofield and many others.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I was just a little boy and I listened to a part of improvisation in a song called "Addi Rabiya" (=And Here Comes the Spring) from the famous Egyptian lute player and singer Farid ElAtrach. I tried to repeat that song with the lute.

Your sound and approach to music: I believe music doesn't have any borders. My style is oriental jazz, a mixture between Tunisian/oriental music and jazz.

Your teaching approach: The most important when it comes to teaching students is to make them love what they are doing.

Your dream band: My dream band would be with me on the Rayjam, Marcus Miller on the bass, Dennis Chamber playing the drums, Joe Zawinul on synthesizer. I would also love to work with Al Jarreau.

Anecdote from the road: I will tell you about something that happened during a concert in Tunis.

We had done the sound check and the band was ready to play. The time for the concert came, but there was no audience. We heard them but couldn't see them. What had happened?

The director of the concert hall had lost the key to the front door, so the audience could not enter the concert hall. We had to wait for at least half an hour till he found it and opened the door.

Favorite venue: The International Festival of Jazz of Tabarka, Tunisia. The public there is really great!

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? My favorite song in my discography is "NedÃm. It's the latest song that I have composed and I feel I am improving in my style.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? The combination I make with my instrument and musical style between the oriental and occidental cultures.

Did you know... My favorite food is fish......and I love playing sports.......and the name of my dog is Maya.

How do you use the internet to help your career? I have my own website, which is http://www.nabilkhemir.com. A lot of my fans contact me there after the concerts.

I also have a MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/nabilkhemir and a sonicbids EPK, that you can visit from my website.

CDs you are listening to now: Al Jarreau & George Benson, Givin' It Up

How would you describe the state of jazz today? Today we have many styles in jazz, due to many great and talented musicians that work very hard.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? To keep jazz alive and growing we need to continue and not give up, like elder jazz players including Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and Wes Montgomery. We must keep swinging and creating! There need to be a lot of publicity, because there are still a lot of countries where jazz is not very well known, like Tunisia and other Maghrebian countries.

What is in the near future? My new album Rayjam is being released by Blue Canoe Records. I'm also recording two new albums. One will be oriental jazz and the other popular Tunisian music.

By Day: I don't have a day job.


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