‘I find relaxation through music’
The qanoon is Furat Qaddouri’s main passion, whether playing in concert or among friends. Nicole Hill / The National
Furat Qaddouri is an Iraqi-born qanoon player who is based in Dubai.
I came to the UAE in 2005 for three months and now it’s three years and counting. I don’t know quite how it happened, but I like living in Dubai. I live most of the time at the Shangri-La hotel, where I play my qanoon every night from 4.30 until 8.30. I also play there with my fusion band. I like everything about the Shangri-La: the staff, the restaurants, the rooms and the service. My other home is in Duisburg, Germany, where my wife, and two daughters are. My wife is a ceramic artist and my oldest daughter wants to be a musician or ballerina.
There isn’t much to do in Duisberg, so apart from taking my family out to restaurants, I tend to go out with other musicians in Cologne and Bonn. I spend almost all of my time in Dubai, but I return to Germany for about three weeks out of every three months. I do a lot of concerts in Europe but my last one was in Singapore, so I travel a lot.
The main difference between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is culture. In Abu Dhabi they appreciate creative people and are always looking out for culture. Although I like Dubai a lot, it’s very different from Abu Dhabi and the cultural life is better there.
Dubai is always filled with traffic, so I find relaxation through my music. There are a lot of jazz festivals here too, so I enjoy those. My band is called Furat Qaddouri & His Fusion Band and in March we played at the Chillout Festival at the Madinat Jumeirah amphitheatre and the Dubai International Jazz Festival at Dubai Media City. I play my qanoon everywhere – in the studio, at my home or at my friends’ homes. Sometimes I play alone and at other times we rehearse together.
I don’t see it as work. I don’t have a set routine – sometimes I play for eight hours a day, sometimes it’s just one-and-a-half. But I always play a little bit, every day. Sometimes I go to do something else, and then come back and do some more. I also like swimming in the sea.
In Dubai I like the Blue Bar for its jazz. It’s got a great atmosphere and all the other musicians go there. We see each other and talk about the music. I like to meet my friend Kamal Musallam, the Jordanian guitarist, there. We played together at the Box@Cafe in Amman in 1998. He joined my band and we’ve been friends ever since. I used to teach music in Jordan and Amman is a fantastic city to live in. I also love anywhere with Latin beats. I like anywhere which plays live music. Peanut Butter Jam on Friday nights at Wafi City is great for the live outdoor jamming sessions. For food I like Trader Vic’s at the Beach Rotana in Abu Dhabi or Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.
@Body-Answer2 :As a child in Baghdad I only listened to reggae, pop and jazz, but my father, who was a music teacher, encouraged me to learn to play the qanoon. The qanoon is not famous like the lute so it has been hard work to make it popular. Now when all the families ask me what I suggest for their children, I tell them to learn the qanoon. But still most people, including Arabs, are only interested in the guitar, piano or violin.
My interest in Latin America stemmed from a trek I did in 1999 through Cuba, Salvador and Guatemala. My album Spirit Calls was a fusion of Latin American, European, western jazz and pop music. It’s been about 10 years since I started mixing my qanoon with modern instruments, to make fusion music. I took a CD to Europe but no one wanted to buy it from me because it used synthesizers and other electronic stuff. In the West people tend to like the pure acoustic stuff, the World Music types. But in Dubai I had three companies that wanted to buy my CD, and now DJs are playing it at the Dubai Buddha Bar and other places.
I alternate between playing the qanoon solo and playing it with other instruments. I love to mix it with the electric piano, Arabic and western percussion instruments, and base. My next album, The Hanging Gardens, will be released next month through the record label Daxar.
May 11. 2008