Biography



  • Born in Homs/Syria in 1948
  • Learned to play ud (Arabic lute) from his father and grandfather, a well-known sufimaster (sufimusic is the most sophisticated and complex in the Arabic world)
  • Since 1962 he studied traditional Arabic music with a concentration in ud and percussion in Syria, since 1966 he studied modern Arabic and classical European music
  • 1970 two years of studies in composition at the Institute for Oriental Music in Kairo
  • 1972 Al-Farabi-Prize for composition



  • 1973 he recorded his first LP in Greece, concerts in Greece and Europe
  • 1981 Since this time he has been working with the International Institute for Comparative Musicological Studies and Documentation/Berlin, became resident of Berlin
  • Extensive concerts in Germany and Europe (e.g. Royal Albert Hall/London, Philharmonic Hall/Warsaw) and in the Arabic world. Taught at many international workshops. Appearances on radio and television
  • 1985 first prize for improvisation at the UN International Symposium in Poland
  • Concerts and tours with internationally renown musicians and ensembles (e.g. L. Subramaniam India/USA, Giora Feidman)
  • Projects involving literature, theatre and art (appearances with Annemarie Schimmel, Adonis, Rafik Shami, Marianne Hoppe etc.)




  • Composition inspired by Hieronymus Bosch´s “Garden of Earthly Delights” (Symposium Akademie der Künste Berlin 1989)
  • Frequent appearances on exhibitions and museum-events (e.g. „Europa und der Orient 800 - 1900“ Berliner Festspiele: Horizonte 1989; „100 Jahre Vorderasiatisches Museum“ Pergamon/Berlin 1999)
  • 1997 Award for the best musical director at the “International Theatre and Dance Festival in Lahore/Pakistan
  • Three solo LP´s, four CD´s, several solo cassettes
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Farhan Sabbagh is one of the world’s few living ud soloists. He is among the leading contemporary ud virtuosos and a master of Arabic percussion. He has performed on all the continents with the exception of Australia.

The Instruments

  • Al-Ud: a fretless short-necked lute. It is the most important of all Arabic instruments and is frequently referred to as the ”queen of musical Instruments”. It was brought to Spain by the Moors but soon spread all over Europe in a fretted form called the lute. The ud has a pear-shaped body and a short neck without frets and generally has five double courses of strings. Farhan Sabbagh´s instruments have additional bass and treble courses thus increasing the range from 2 ½ to 3 ½ octaves.
  • Riqq: open-frame drum with jingles and one skin (tambourine)
  • Mazhar: open-frame drum with one skin and no jingles

The Music

  • Classical Arabic music uses not only the half and whole steps of the western scale but also smaller intervals like the limma (1/3 of whole step) and komma (1/9 of whole step). There are 120 different seven-tone scales (Maqamat)
  • An important part of the traditional repertoire is the Taqsim. It is a form of representation in a specific key (Maqam) but with free rhythm. The performer embellishes various notes of the Maqam and gives form to the improvisation through various dramatic pauses. During these pauses the audience frequently expresses its feelings verbally or through other calls or sounds. Each Taqsim is a new and spontaneous composition.

Farhan Sabbagh´s Repertoire

  • his own compositions for ud
  • the Taqsim
  • his own rhythmic compositions for riqq and mazhar
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