Khyam Allami is an Iraqi-British multi-instrumentalist musician, composer, researcher and founder of Nawa Recordings. His artistic research and practice explores experimental composition and improvisation based on, and inspired by, the fundamentals of Arabic music and culture.

Despite only taking up the Oud – his principal instrument – in his twenties, Allami rapidly became a performer of international renown. His remarkably assured debut solo album Resonance/Dissonance (Nawa Recordings, 2011) was widely critically praised and led him to high profile performances across Europe and the Arab world including the BBC Proms (UK), WOMAD (UK), Supersonic (UK), CTM (DE), Incubate (NL) and Irtijal (LB).

His recent works include Requiem for the 21st Century, an immersive Oud-based installation for Opera North (UK), Ma-a aba ud mena gin Ma-a di-di-in, a string quartet for JACK quartet (US), and Apotome, a collaborative project with Counterpoint Studio which was awarded the inaugural Isao Tomita Special Prize at Ars Electronica 2021 (AT).

Born in Damascus, Syria in 1981 to Iraqi parents, and raised in London from the age of 9, Allami began his musical path by studying the violin for a minor role in the Syrian arthouse film Al-Tahaleb (Rimon Butros, 1990). He moved on to Guitar, Bass and Drums during his teens before continuing on as a Drummer in the metal, post-rock and progressive rock bands Art of Burning Water, Ursa and Knifeworld.

During the US/UK-led invasion and destruction of Iraq in 2003 Allami found himself to be “out of balance” with himself and his history. In 2004—aged 23—began to study Oud, Arabic and Iraqi music with Iraqi Oud master Ehsan Emam in London. A year later he enrolled himself into the B.A. Ethnomusicology degree at SOAS, University of London and graduated with a distinction in 2008. Receiving scholarships from SOAS and the British Institute for the Study of Iraq he went on to study for a Masters and continued his research and Oud studies across Istanbul and Cairo with Mehmet Bitmez, Naseer Shamma at Beit al-Oud, Hazem Shaheen and Abdo Dagher.

Following the release of Resonance/Dissonance in 2011 Allami began tirelessly performing and developing projects across the Arab world and Europe. He returned to drumming and joined Tamer Abu Ghazaleh’s solo project, co-founded the band Alif—whose debut album Aynama-Rtama (Wherever It Falls) was widely praised—and in 2014 fully launched his independent record label Nawa Recordings.

Since then, he has composed works for film, theatre and dance including the award-winning As I Open My Eyes by Leyla Bouzid (2016), All This Victory by Ahmad Ghossein (2019) and A Universe not Made for Us (2019) a collaboration with contemporary Flamenco dancer/choreographer Yalda Younes.

In 2022 he completed a Ph.D. in composition at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham City University (UK). His practice-led doctoral research explored experimental Arabic music composition through decolonial, creolising approaches to sonic technologies and various acoustic, electro-acoustic and electronic instrumentation.

Upcoming projects include the soundtrack for Donga by Muhannad Lamin (2023), a feature-length documentary film about the war in Libya, Moi, Toi, Nous... Tituba a duo with dancer/choreographer Dorothée Munyaneza (premier Tanz Im August, Berlin, 2023), and a sound installation for the Contemporary Arts Centre, Cincinnati, OH, celebrating the legacy of Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid (opening Sep 2023). 

© 2022 Khyam Allami