x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Oud virtuoso Omar Bashir eager to perform in Abu Dhabi

Musician says it is important for him to play in the UAE, which is a cultural centre for the media and the arts.

Omar Bashir, musician and composer, will be playing the oud in Al Ain on Thursday.
Omar Bashir, musician and composer, will be playing the oud in Al Ain on Thursday.

DUBAI // One of the world's most renowned oud players said he was looking forward to two concerts in the UAE because of the nation's status as a Middle East centre for art and culture. Omar Bashir, 40, who is of Iraqi and Hungarian parentage, was speaking before his performances in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain this weekend. "The Gulf region is the most important area for those interested in oud," he said. "And in the UAE I have many fans. Also, it is a crucial centre for media and the arts so it is important for me to come here."

Omar, whose late father was Munir Bashir, an Iraqi virtuoso, arrived in the UAE this week after completing a month-long tour of the US, Canada and the UK. He is here to promote his new album, The Crazy Oud, which was released two weeks ago and is seventh in sales among regional albums at Virgin Megastores in the UAE. The trip also coincided with an invitation from Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach) to play in Al Ain and in Abu Dhabi as part of its Music in the World of Islam series.

Bashir, known as the "Prince of Oud", will give a 45-minute rendition of traditional Iraqi music based on improvised Arabic scales, or maqam. Born in 1970 in Budapest, his mother's hometown, he spent his childhood in Baghdad and began playing the oud at the age of five under the tutelage of his father. At seven, he joined the Baghdad Music and Ballet School. He later became a teacher there and set up his own band of 24 musicians specialising in traditional Iraqi music. They performed across Egypt, Russia, Turkey and Arabic countries.

When he moved back to Hungary in 1991, during the First Gulf War, he began to fuse his Middle Eastern sound with the Eastern European culture. He would perform duets with his father until Munir died in 1997 on the eve of a tour in North America. On his new album, he plays flamenco, rumba, Indian raga and blues on the oud. It is important, he said, to keep the music of the traditional instrument fresh and alive.

"I want to present many different cultures with my ancient instrument," he said. "I want to inspire the young generation as well as pleasing the older generations. "You have to be strong and passionate to move the sound of such an old instrument forward. Thankfully, I have that passion." He is credited with helping to popularise the oud, an Arabic stringed instrument descended from the lyre or harp, in the western world.

Bashir will take to the stage at Al Ain Social Club on Friday night and at the National Theatre in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. Saad Bashir, Omar's artistic manager, said fans of the late Munir Bashir should be prepared for a treat, said He said: "If you come to the concert you will feel you are in Baghdad 30 years ago and you are listening to Munir Bashir live. It will be a unique experience." @Email:aseaman@thenational.ae