Rabih Abou-Khalil is an oud player and composer, known for fusing traditional Arab music with jazz, European classical music, and other styles.
Rabih Abou-Khalil grew up in Beirut and learned to play the oud – a fretless string instrument similar to a lute. He moved to Munich, Germany during the Lebanese civil war in 1978 and studied flute at the Academy of Music under Walther Theurer.
Abou-Khalil has worked with Arabic, Indian, and American jazz musicians, including alto saxophonist Sonny Fortune, frame drummer and percussionist Glen Valez, conga player Milton Cardona, harmonica ace Howard Levy, and bassists Glen Moore and Steve Swallow. His influences include Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry, Frank Zappa, Béla Bartók, and such unexpected musicians as the Mighty Sparrow and Lord Kitchener from Trinidad.
He hosted a 13-part documentary series “Visions of Music” which set out to explore the blending of jazz with traditional music and explored Caribbean salsa, Brazilian samba, Argentine tango, French musette, Spanish flamenco, Jewish klezmer, New Orleans R&B and Mississippi blues, as well as West African, South African, Indian and Middle Eastern music.
Rabih Abou-Khalil’s style, blending traditional Arab music with jazz, rock and classical music, has often been likened to jazz guitar, and highlights the oud as a vehicle of eclectic world jazz.
His work often employs unusual, complex time signatures, like 10/8 (which is often found in Turkish music) which you can hear on releases such as Nightfall, Ziriab, After Dinner, and On a Bus. In recent years, he has explored further mixtures of unusual time signatures, setting new standards in complexity while retaining freshness, wit and the jazz value of swing.
Humour is an important ingredient in his compositions and live performances. Dr. Gieler’s Wiener Schnitzel (Morton’s Foot, 2004) is inspired by the absurd story of a dentist who opens a restaurant in Abu-Dhabi where his Wiener schnitzel has a reputation for healing the blind and deaf. After the authorities close his restaurant he moves back to Austria and sells ties to businessmen.
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