Renowned for his virtuosity of the oud instrument, Khyam Allami is an Iraqi-British musician and composer. He was born in Damascus, Syria, in 1981 to Iraqi parents and raised in London from age 9. Allami’s first instrument was the violin, which he learned for a role in the Syrian arthouse film Al-Tahaleb (Rimon Butros, 1990). During his early years as a practicing musician, Allami explored a breadth of interests; he performed in punk, metal, post-rock, and progressive rock bands in London, such as Art of Burning Water, Ursa, and Knifeworld.
Allami was living in London when the US led the invasion of Iraq in 2004. This turbulent period prompted him to reconsider his roots and history, as well as his connection to the Arab world. During this time, Allami began learning the oud, which quickly became his primary instrument. He re-centered his practice on the fundamentals of Arabic music, with a focus on tuning and microtonality. This formative period was further solidified by studies in Ethnomusicology from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
Allami’s highly lauded solo oud album, Resonance/Dissonance (2011), led to high profile international performances at CTM (DE), BBC Proms (UK), and WOMAD (UK), among others. In 2014, Allami launched Nawa Recordings, an independent record label releasing new alternative music from the Arab world. In an interview with Kalimat Magazine, Allami described the motivations that led him to establish the label: “I want to encourage production in the [Arab] region through releasing new music, getting people to create new works, and helping get those works out, as well as some reissues for the sake of documentation.”
Allami is currently undertaking a Ph.D. in composition from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham City University. During this three-year practice-based research degree, he will explore the application of contemporary acoustic, electro-acoustic, and electronic compositional techniques and processes to Arabic music through the use of technology and instrumentation.