Khalil Ghadri steps into the limelight for a change

The qanun player has made a career appearing on other people's albums, but he's bringing his own fusion band to Dubai.

Khalil Ghadri. Courtesy The Fridge
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You may have not seen him live, but you've definitely heard him on television and on your favourite Arab pop singer's album. Khalil Ghadri will now shine in his own right with his Dubai performance tomorrow.

The Syrian qanun player will appear with his Acoustic Fusion Band as part of the Fridge Concert Series.

Ghadri has made a successful career as a session musician, playing, for instance, on albums by the Iraqi star Kadim Al Sahir as well as the UAE legend Hussain Al Jassmi. His qanun can also be heard in Ramadan adverts by the Dubai-based Arabic satellite channel MBC.

He explains the Arabic instrument's flexibility can make it sound equally at home on both pop and classical music. "The qanun can play the bass, middle and high octaves," he says. "It can play harmony as well as the melody, basically anything you feel and that is very important when composing music."

Ghadri picked up the qanun at the age of 11 after first training to be a pianist. His virtuosity with the instrument earned him a place at the Damascus Conservatory where he learnt classical composition.

The instrument let him make an income in the UAE, and allowed him to travel across the region backing famous singers. "With the exception of Sudan and I think three other countries, I've been everywhere in the Arab world," he says. "Sometimes they invite me to come back and play special concerts or give workshops. It really gave me a lot of opportunities."

Ghadri hopes to display the qanun's possibilities with this performance, backed by his five-piece band, a multicultural collective that includes Spanish guitar, Indian flute and tabla and Arabic percussion. "All the songs we will perform I composed," he says. "It is a mix of fusion music and what I learnt from my life."

Khalil Ghadri Acoustic Fusion Band will play at The Fridge, Al Quoz 4, Street 26, Dubai, tomorrow at 7.30pm. Dh50 entry and free entry for those under 18. Details from