Roman Bunka, German composer known for love of Arabic music, dies at 71

Musician said iconic singer Mohammed Mounir 'opened the door' to the Egyptian experience

German musician Roman Bunka, seen here performing in Austria in 2015, has died, aged 71. Getty
Powered by automated translation

German composer, guitarist and oud player Roman Bunka, whose love for Arabic music endeared him to millions in the Middle East, has died at the age of 71.

Bunka died on Sunday after suffering liver cancer.

Born in Frankfurt in 1951, Bunka was distinguished in his later years by a full head of silver hair.

The early stages of his career saw him emerge as a pioneer in experimenting with rock-jazz. He was introduced to international music through his extensive travels in the late 1960s and through to the 1980s with two German bands ― Jazz Embryo and Missus Beastly.

His love affair with Arabic music began in the 1980s, initially in Morocco and then in Egypt, where he studied oud and met Egypt’s iconic singer Mohammed Mounir. The two struck up a friendship and collaborated in a series of memorable performances.

“Mohammed Mounir opened the door to my Egyptian experience," said Bunka. "Through the work with him I met so many musicians, classic, folk musicians, street musicians and stars like (composer) Baligh Hamdy."

He was proud to meet legendary oud players of the Arab world, including Iraq’s Naseer Shama and Lebanon’s Ziad Rahbani.

“Today, I lost my brother and lifetime friend, the music virtuoso Roman Bunka,” Mr Mounir tweeted. “We have jointly made our legacy of beautiful music that impacted many generations. I will miss you. May mercy be bestowed upon your pure spirit, my dear Roman.”

Updated: June 13, 2022, 10:49 AM