This year's Arabic Music Days will focus on the oud, the unrivaled queen of Arabic music. Five days in September will honor the centuries-old tradition of the instrument as well as its role in contemporary culture. In concerts with the Ahmad Shamma Quartet, Islam Taha & The Cairo Oud House Trio, Sherine Tohamy & The Abu Dhabi Oud House Trio, and the Nehad El-Sayed Quintet, the short-necked lute will be heard in different settings—including an oud quartet a well as ensembles featuring saxophone or strings. For the festival’s finale, curator Naseer Shamma will lead a veritable oud orchestra.

Many of the performers are representatives of the Oud Houses in Cairo and Abu Dhabi, which Shamma has established as teaching centers. Visual art, film, literature, craft, and poetry will provide additional perspectives on contemporary Arabic culture.

As in previous years, a comprehensive program will amplify different voices of contemporary Arabic culture. In a workshop and exhibition, luthiers will provide insights into the craft of instrument-making. Artist and jewelry designer Azza Al Qubaisi creates sculptures out of gold, silver, wood, and steel. With references to the culture and nature of her homeland, the United Arab Emirates, her works reflect different aspects of her identity.
Poets Fawziyya Abu Khalid (Saudi Arabia) and Lorca Sbeity (Lebanon) will accompany the concerts with readings of their works.
All visitors of the Arabic Music Days will receive online access to stream Iraqi director Ahmed Yassin Al Daradji’s film Hanging Gardens on the digital platform of the Pierre Boulez Saal. Set in post-war Baghdad in the 2010’s, it recounts the coming-of-age story of 12-year-old Asad and his older brother. 

Naseer Shamma is among the world’s foremost players and teachers of the oud. He trained at the Music Academy in Baghdad with Iraqi grand master Munir Bashir and from 1993 taught for five years at the Conservatory in Tunis. In 1998 he founded the first Oud House in Cairo, a school dedicated entirely to his instrument. Other schools have subsequently opened in Abu Dhabi, Alexandria, Khartoum, Baghdad, and Riad. He has performed with musicians from a wide range of backgrounds, and in many of his projects combines traditions and instruments of classical Arabic music with those of Western music. In 2017, he was named a UNESCO Artist for Peace. As curator for the Arabic Music Days, he has been closely associated with the Pierre Boulez Saal since its opening.


About the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF)

Founded in 1996, ADMAF is one of the oldest, not-for-profit cultural organisations in the Arabian Gulf. Pioneering new artistic practices, it seeks to deepen global cross-cultural dialogue and inspire a renewed interest in the creativity of the UAE and Arab world. Often in partnership with leading national and international institutions, it delivers multidisciplinary initiatives for people of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities through the Abu Dhabi Festival, year-round youth platforms and community programmes.

For more information, please visit ADMAF website at:

About Abu Dhabi Festival

Founded in 2004, the Festival was generously granted the patronage of the President, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, from 2007 to 2011. The first Abu Dhabi Festival was held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the then Minister of Information and Culture (currently the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation).

Abu Dhabi Festival is the festival of “Bilad Al Khayr”, the land of blessings, the land of Zayed, and embraces the values of dialogue, tolerance, respect and peace. For more information, please visit