Abdullah Chhadeh's compositions speak of the people, places and emotions that have shaped his journey from East to West. Leaving Damascus in 1999 to move to the UK, he has since forged an international career as a qanun soloist and composer of striking technical brilliance and remarkable originality. Born in Damascus, Syria in 1968, Abdullah's musical talents developed early. He began his education in a camp for refugees in the Golan. A family friend fashioned a small oud (Arabic lute) for him, but when Abdullah first heard the qanun he knew this was the instrument for him.The qanun is an Arabic zither, a complex and beautiful 81-string instrument that traditionally requires a long apprenticeship to master. Chhadeh saw a qanun at a performance when he was 23, fell in love with the instrument, and convinced legendary qanun player Selim Serweh to teach him for two years, at the end of which the master had nothing left to teach his prodigious student. Five years at the Conservatoire of Damascus followed - a time in which Chhadeh honed his considerable skill as a composer, and secured himself a scholarship at London's prestigious Guildhall School of Music.
"Spellbinding", "innovative", "gifted" are words that are time and again used to describe the performances and compositions on which Chhadeh's blossoming international reputation is built. A relentless musical adventurer, Chhadeh has spent the last five years introducing the qanun's distinctive sound to new and occasionally unexpected settings. His versatility, inventiveness and technical brilliance ensure that he is in constant demand as a guest performer. His recordings and collaborations have included both solo performances and featured soloist work with Sinead O'Connor, Jocelyn Pook, Natacha Atlas and David Arnold among others.
Having made his own personal connection to the West, Chhadeh has, with his ensemble 'Nara', developed a sound that blends the unmistakably Arabic qanun with jazzy double bass and Western percussion, as well as its more traditional counterparts, such as the nay (Arabic flute), darbuka, and Oriental accordion. Nara's unique sound has enchanted audiences throughout Europe and Canada, as well as in the Middle East."
His new release Seven Gates features a set of compositions inspired by seven stone portals, once gateways to the ancient Damascus, today part of the modern life of the city. Each gate has its own distinct style and character, both in design and, more importantly, in terms of the life and colour of the communities and landscapes that have developed round them over the centuries. With each composition, Chhadeh builds up a picture of the striking contrasts that make up the landscape of the modern city.