BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

Accessibility help
Text only
BBC Homepage
BBC Music
BBC Radio 3

Radio 3

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

World On Your Street: The Global Music Challenge
Abdullah Chhadeh
Send us your review:
Describe the atmosphere and live music at a local pub, restaurant, festival, church or temple, club night.... inspire other people to check it out!

Musician: Abdullah Chhadeh

Location: London

Instruments: qanun

Music: contemporary Arabic / Middle Eastern

Listen  Listen (48'00) to Abdullah Chhadeh's set at the Europe in Union Concert, November 2003

Listen  Listen (10'40) to Abdullah Chhadeh play 'Assaf', ABYC Records, CHH2002

Abdullah Chhadeh will be performing at the Europe In Union concert series

'I've got a band called Nara, named after the little piece of charcoal you put in a hookah!'

How I came to this music:

I lived all my life in Damascus until four years ago when I won a scholarship to come and study music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. I'm now 34 but I started learning the qanun at the age of 22 with a master musician called Salim Sarwet, who taught me one-to-one, like a guru.

I studied with him for a couple of years and then he wrote me a letter of recommendation to the Conservatoire of Damascus so that I could go and further my studies in an academic environment. So I was accepted and spent the next five years studying classical Arabic and Western classical music.

Abdullah Chhadeh with qanunDuring this time I had a lot of opportunities to play qanun with an Arabic orchestra and to experiment with the instrument ­ including adding an octave to it. Traditionally, the qanun has 26 triple sets of strings but I added another 8, so creating a different instrument with a different sound. I was also offered a lot of slots for solos with symphony orchestras, playing both classical Western music pieces adapted by myself on the qanun (for instance Vivaldi's Four Seasons) or other works on the Eastern side, for Arabic music.

When I finished at the Conservatoire, I was offered a scholarship to come to London to do a composition course at The Guildhall School. I've got a band called Nara (named after the little piece of charcoal you put in a hookah!), which includes five other musicians on double bass, drum kit, derbuka, accordion and ney, plus a sound man. The players are a real mixture of nationalities; from England, Ireland, Turkey and of course Syria.

Where I play:

Abdullah Chhadeh with qanunI don't know why, but normally I play very little in England, although we have played at the Reading WOMAD festival. Outside this country, I've been touring all over with Nara for the past few years. We've been to Canada and Europe recently doing various festivals. And a couple of years ago we went to Australia for the Sydney Olympics, and we played lots of festivals there, touring around the whole country. In 2001 we did a live recording at WOMEX in Rotterdam, and that CD (Abdullah Chhadeh and Nara) is available through my website or you can buy it at gigs, along with my first CD, which is a solo qanun recording called Ya mal al-sham.

I can't get my head around why I play so little in the place where I'm based, while I get lots of festivals and other dates elsewhere. But I'm hoping that next year I'll arrange a UK tour and do more here in London just to make people aware of our music. Because the instrument I play is not well known to the Western public.

A favourite song:

Assaf is an instrumental piece which evokes a form of sadness, like if you've been through difficulties or a bad experience, or tough times so you feel something is really bad. 'Assaf' is the Arabic word for that feeling.
Click here for Hande Domac's storyClick here for Mosi Conde's storyClick here for Rachel McLeod's story

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy