KHYAM ALLAMI • BIOGRAPHY


KHYAM ALLAMI
is an Iraqi multi-instrumentalist musician, composer, mix engineer and label manager with a formidable and continually growing international reputation.

Despite only taking up the Oud – his principal instrument – in his twenties, Allami rapidly became a performer of international renown. His remarkably assured 2011 debut solo album Resonance/Dissonance 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).

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). Following short stints as a violinist in school orchestras in London 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 and 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. After 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. In 2010 he was chosen as the first protege of BBC Radio 3's prestigious World Routes Academy mentorship scheme which saw perform at WOMAD and London's Royal Albert Hall broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. 

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 joining 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 with Maurice Louca's seminal album Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan (Salute the Parrot) which he also mixed. In the same period he composed, produced and mixed the music for Leyla Bouzid's debut feature film As I Open My Eyes/A peine j'ouvre les yeux which went on to receive over 30 international awards including the Best Film award at Dubai International Film Festival and Best Film Music award at Festival du Cinéma et Musique de Film de La Baule.

Most recently, Allami was awarded an AHRC M3C doctoral studentship in the UK to undertake a PhD in Composition at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, starting autumn 2018. This three year practice-based research degree will see him explore the application of contemporary acoustic, electro-acoustic and electronic compositional techniques and processes to Arabic music, and apply the fundamentals of Arabic music to contemporary compositional processes and techniques for western classical instruments. 

He is currently working on his second solo album Kawalees, the soundtrack to Ahmad Ghossein’s debut feature film All This Victory (LB/FR), a commission from OperaNorth for the PRSF New Music Biannual (UK), and a collaboration with contemporary flamenco dancer Yalda Younes, A Universe Not Made For Us, which will premier at DansFabrik Festival in Brest (FR) in Feb 2019. 

© 2018 Khyam Allami