Bringing Arab music to an international audience

The National

The Iraqi composer Hazim Faris was just five years old when he slipped naturally into the spotlight, performing in front of thousands during music festivals in Baghdad and Basra, his home city.

Today, the UAE-based musician, whose first album 1001 Violin Nightsreached No 1 on the regional music charts following its release last October, has been invited to perform at two prestigious European festivals this summer.

Faris will perform material from his album as well as two exclusive pieces for the annual festival La Palette du Monde in Lyon, France next month, which promotes cultural exchange between professional and amateur artists.

In October, he will perform at the Södra Teatern in Stockholm, one of the largest stages in the world, for the Tigris Birds festival, which focuses on Arab music.

In Stockholm, he will perform one concert by invitation only and a second alongside an all-female choir.

« I’ll talk about stories told through my album, which tells the story of my experience and that of my family in Iraq, » says Faris.

« I want to say: This is the story of my country. » One such song, Stranger, examines how some Iraqis living in foreign countries feel like outsiders.

The album 1001 Violin Nights was recorded in Istanbul with the musical troupe of the renowned Turkish singer Ibrahim Tatlises. Faris has been in the UAE for 10 years, where he also arranges music for television and theatre and for Arab pop stars such as Diana Haddad and Majid Al Muhandis.

« It’s a beautiful thing to have special music from the Middle East reach global audiences, » he says. « When I first received the invitations, I was honoured because the level of the festivals are so high and Europe’s extensive history in music is well documented. »

Faris credits his passion for music to his brother, the singer Hashim K Makki. « I remember being surrounded by instruments. My brother was a beautiful singer, played the piano and oud. He’s the one that inspired me, » says Faris. « When I lived in Iraq, I had many stories in my mind. Now I visit twice a year, and it’s like updating those stories. »

Faris is now working on his second album, and plans to record in France, Belgium, Istanbul, London and Dubai. Recording is due to begin in February next year.

« My message is that we can all make music together, everywhere and at anytime, because music is the language of the world, » he says.

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