Khyam Allami was born in 1981 in Damascus to Iraqi parents, and he moved with his family to London when he was nine years old. After his first musical experience with the violin as a child, Allami took to rock music in his teens, playing bass guitar and drums in bands and developing a reputation as a creative and hard-hitting drummer.
In 2003 he began playing the oud as an attempt to engage with and revive his cultural roots. This was partly as a response to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the recognition that he couldn’t do anything about it – he chose to demonstrate his solidarity by taking up oud playing. In March 2004 he bought his own oud and decided to dedicate his life to the instrument and its music.
He has since performed at WOMAD, the BBC Proms and performed with Blur at the sold-out Olympics’ closing celebrations in Hyde Park in front of an 80,000-plus audience, following a tour with the British band. In 2010 he was the first artist to be awarded a BBC Radio 3 World Routes scholarship in 2010.
Khyman has also worked with the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq and founded his own label, Nawa Recordings.
Text adapted from Khyman’s biography on his website.