Nabil Arbaain

Oud Teacher

He was influenced in his early years by both classical Arabic music as well as the diverse and cosmopolitan musical landscape of Damascus – a city in the heart of the Middle East, attracting musicians and sounds from the entire region for centuries

This environment enabled him to connect with diverse musicians and styles from around the world, from the beginning of his career, composing for and playing with bands and orchestras in Damascus. This curiosity only strengthened when He fled Syria and found himself living and creating homes away from home for the first time in his life. What struck him in particular was the profound inconsistency of borders – what they represent and if and how and for whom they are controlled.

He risked his life to Lebanon, Turkey, Greece and Germany, only to find himself living in Frankfurt Oder, less than 100m from the uncontrolled German-Polish border, even connected by a physical bridge. Throughout this journey, music – playing, improvising, composing – was with him. And he began to realize that music has no borders. It is a language everyone can understand and through which he could communicate with everyone. As a result of this universality, he learned that many music styles can be played simultaneously, producing yet another layer of meaning and sound. Since his experience living on the German-Polish ‘’border’’ and since his experience playing in over 100 concerts across Germany and Europe – this border flexibility is how he hears the European map and how he hopes one day, to hear the world’s map. It is the sound he wants to explore in his project with AMIBerlin .

His musical style and compositions are greatly inspired by his experiences and memories of Syria. While he will always carry this history with him, with time, his style increasingly merges with his experiences as a newcomer in Berlin and expatriate from Damascus. This process of creating home and negotiating his identity and belonging in Berlin has come to be reflected very deeply in his musical approach.

Having finally arrived in his second home – Berlin, his long‐standing passion for the fusion of classical Arabic and Middle Eastern music with other music genres such as Jazz, Flamenco, and Western Classical music continues to find fertile ground. Like the name of his first album, ‘’From Damascus to Berlin’’ (2020), his sound and compositions reflect this diversity and fusion.

Since coming to Germany in 2015, he has performed hundreds of concerts in cities around Europe including two tours in Poland that involved Syrian music and poetry. His tours also brought him to Italy, Spain and France with the Syrian Cultural Caravan in 2017. In Germany, he also regularly performed as a soloist and has composed music for the Babylon Orchestra, Wedding Orchestra, Baden‐Baden Wind Orchestra and Ananda electronic band.

He has also co‐founded four bands in Berlin, and he is currently composing music for them.

The first band, Matar, means ‘rain’ in Arabic and consists of Syrian and German musicians working on merging Middle Eastern Arabic Classical Music and Western Classical Music. SINGA, meaning ‘connect’ in Lingala, is a Syrian‐German music group that infuses jazz music with a Middle Eastern spirit. Naranja, meaning ‘orange’ in Spanish, performs Arabic Andalusian Music using Oud and Percussion, and the fourth band is “Nabil & Matthias”, a Syrian‐German duo balancing Oud solos with Latino rhythms.

From 2006 to 2012, He managed a Music Production Company in Damascus called, Alkhaimeh (meaning ‘the tent’ in Arabic) which produced music for local musicians and the Damascus
Opera House. Under his supervision, Alkhaimeh also focused on supporting young musicians struggling with their first steps – including arranging rehearsal sessions, concerts, and art events
as well as the recording and production of their work.

He has also worked as a research assistant with Dr Waldo Fabian Garrido from Western Sydney University, on a project called, Music and Migration, focusing on Syrian musicians in Berlin. And
now, he is working on a music therapy project with Dr Garrido, Dr Alison Short, and musicologist Zaher Alkaei.

In 2020, He released his first Album “From Damascus to Berlin”. The album is an archaeology of the many unknowns faced during forced migration and how music and memory create a new understanding of connection to place. The songs reflect the geography of his experience on the move, seeking asylum in Europe and the (re‐)negotiation of the meaning of home, including traditional Damascene songs as well as a new interpretation of Schubert’s De Leiermann.