It’s not often that you stumble on a musician at the start of his career who’s biography is as intriguing as Khyam Allami’s. Since taking up the ‘ūd (or Oud, Middle Eastern Lute) in 2004, he has already generated a “palpable buzz” about him and “left a trail of unforgettable live performances in his wake” according to the UK’s fRoots Magazine who recently put him on their cover. Whether at small independent venues, Birmingham’s alternative/experimental Supersonic festival, WOMAD or the BBC Proms in London’s Royal Albert Hall, Khyam is yet to falter in making his audience revel in the lucid beauty of his music.
Born to Iraqi parents in Damascus, Syria and raised in London from the age of 9, Khyam could easily be seen as a musical schizophrenic. His passion for music has lead him on a journey from child violinist in Damascus via rock drummer in London to two Music degrees from the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) and on to become a world class Oud player, composer and highly sensitive musician. In 2010 Khyam was the first recipient of the BBC Radio3 World Routes Academy mentorship programme which saw him perform at WOMAD and the BBC Proms.
After much press attention, high profile concerts and various live and recorded collaborations with artists varying from Seattle WA based Master Musicians of Bukkake to Iraqi pop singer Ilham al-Madfa'i, Khyam turned his attention to his own vision. His debut solo ‘ūd album, Resonance/Dissonance (released on his own label Nawa Recordings), is a rare and ambitious effort. It is a double-disc featuring a solo studio recording on the CD and a live performance of the entire album (accompanied by percussionist Vasilis Sarikis) on the DVD.
Resonance/Dissonance is a complete work, a whole. Musically, it is based on the concept of Maqam (the modal system of Middle Eastern music), seemingly stark and simple yet overtly complex. Unusual approaches to the Maqams combine with original, highly structured and detailed “composed-improvisations”. Recurring themes and melodic shapes render a cohesive narrative, accented by a sensitive dynamic and rhythmic outbursts using unusual rhythmic cycles.
All of which intertwine around complete compositions and a dark rendition of the traditional Iraqi Maqam Nawa. Conceptually, it is filtered through a life in London influenced by myriad figures; the work of C.G. Jung, the mysticism of Jorge Luis Borges, the independence and forward thinking of Frank Zappa, and Secret Chiefs 3, the ingenuity of various masters of Middle Eastern music such as Hossein Ali Zadeh, Naseer Shamma and Riyadh alSunbati. Mystical in its lucidity and abstract in its poetry, Resonance/Dissonance is unique, soulful, beautiful, dark, heavy and hopeful all at once.
A truly boundary crossing musical work for fans of Middle Eastern, Classical, Progressive, Jazz, Improvised, World and Avant-garde.
2. Naghmat Tahrir
3. Tawazon I: Balance
4. An Alif/An Apex
5. Tawazon II: or Lack of
6. The Descent (Maqam Nawa)