Ruba Hillawi

An Iraqi academic, born in Sharjah, U.A.E., Ruba was raised in a household where the exposure and appreciation of many cultural traditions was considered to be part and parcel of becoming a world citizen. So, it is not surprising that her interests in exploring many artistic and cultural practices started at a very young age.

Ruba grew up listening to the golden oldies of Arabic music. But, it wasn’t until her undergraduate year that she decided to learn to play the music she had come to love. Her instrument of choice: the oud. In 2015, while teaching in London, Ruba became a student at the Taqasim Music School where she began to advance her skills under the tutelage of oud master Ahmed Mukhtar. Since then, studying the oud has become a way to connect to the homeland that she has never experienced first-hand.

As an educator, with 9 years of professional teaching experience, Ruba has been known to encourage the exploration of music and artistic practices of the various cultures represented in her classrooms. This was done with the aim of fostering inter-cultural appreciation amongst her students. As a music teacher, she is now able to share her own musical heritage with the students at Taqasim.

Academic credentials:
Currently completing an M.A. – Cultural Studies, SOAS, London, 2017
Honors B.Ed. – Primary Junior Education, University of Western Ontario, Canada, 2011
Honors B.A – Fine Arts Cultural Studies, York University, Toronto, 2006

Paul Hughes-Smith

Paul Hughes-Smith is an aficionado of the music of the Middle East and at present is studying the ‘ud with Ahmed Mukhtar. He was an Associate Producer for BBC TV working in the Music & Arts and Education departments. After leaving the BBC in 1995 while studying for a degree in Arabic, he joined the arts charity Cultural Co-operation and was their music advisor and press officer until 2008 for the Music Village Festival held all over London every 2 years bringing musicians from many countries to play at open air free concerts in London parks and elsewhere.

While studying briefly in Yemen in 2001, he was introduced to the music of Yemen and subsequently brought over several groups to play at the Music Village Festival as well as other festivals in the UK and abroad. As well as visiting Yemen many times before the current conflict made this no longer possible, he has traveled widely throughout the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent. He is also a political activist working to achieve justice and freedom for the Palestinian people. He has written articles and reviews for the world music magazine Songlines, The Middle East in London, Palestine News, and for the journals of the British Yemeni Society and the Society for Arabian Studies.


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Ahmed Beyh

Having completed a degree in Psychology at the American University of Beirut, Ahmad moved to London in 2014 to pursue higher education in Neuroscience. Soon after landing in London, he joined the Taqasim Music School where he has been learning the art of playing the Oud since early 2015. Ahmad is also a passionate photographer and has had his camera by his side since 2011. He is currently a research worker and doctoral student at King’s College London.


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Fadi Alnaji

Fadi is a Palestinian performer and Oud player born in 1980 in Saudi Arabia. Fadi has joined Taqasim school in February 2013. He has started learning Oud in Damascus since 1997.

He participated and played in many occasions to celebrate the Oud and its cultural influence. Fadi has written and performed a play called Fareed & Frida in Exeter 2010. In the play, Fadi introduced the Oud as an individual character through which the human characters communicated. Fadi also initiated a project called “a musical painting” in which he used the Oud, Piano, Flute, and a singer to produce a musical conversation based on Middle Eastern and western masterpieces. Fadi is also passionate about writing lyrics and composing music, he has written a few songs one of them is a tribute to Mahmoud Darwish (A lover from Palestine). He is currently developing a performing style where he plays the Oud and recites poetry simultaneously.


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Ahmed Mukhtar

Oud Master, Advanced Oud Teacher, Music Theory, Percussion & Rhythms

Born in Baghdad, Mukhtar has been playing the oud and Arabic percussions since 1979. He has worked with many folk music groups and musicians in the city. In 1983, he began studying both the oud and percussion at the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad with the Masters Ghanim Haddad and Jameel Jerjis. In 1985, Mukhtar began working with Arabic orchestras and performing on Iraqi TV with a variety of Iraqi groups. A few years later, in 1990 he attended the High Institute of Music in Damascus where he continued his studies of the oud as well as western percussions. In 1999, Mukhtar earned an M.A. Diploma from the London College of Music, and in 2003, he received a Masters Degree in Performance with a focus on Middle-Eastern and Arabic music from SOAS (the School of Oriental and African Studies), London.
He is currently teaching oud, percussion and Arabic music theory in many institutes around London including SOAS, the University of London, and the Taqasim Music School. This is in addition to working as the Musical Programs Director for Al-Fayha, an Iraqi television channel.


Founder and Director of Taqasim Music School
Member of the High Committee of the Babylon International Arts & Cultural Festival, Hilla, Iraq
Producer and presenter of the Solo Program, Al-Fayha, on Iraqi TV
Former Musical Director – Sleep Song project in France
Former Director – Iraqi Music Week
Awards and Prizes
2015 – First artist from the Middle-East to be selected by ARC International Music Productions to participate and support the “World Music for War Child”
2009 – Alhambra Award

2015 – Babylonian Fingers
2005 – Road to Baghdad
2003 – Rhythms of Baghdad
1999 – Words from Eden
1997 – Tajwal (Live Recital on Oud)

Other Work
Mukhtar has participated and performed in more than 250 international festivals worldwide. For more information, please visit


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AGNES MEADOWS currently lives in London, and has been gypsying around the world since she was 15, making her home in places as diverse as Mexico, the Philippines, Australia, the Gaza Strip, Singapore and Turkey. Her poetry is a reflection of her urban experience, the things she has seen and felt both at home and overseas, in love and out of it. She has an established reputation on the UK’s Performance Poetry scene, and has toured both nationally and internationally, performing all over the world.

Agnes has performed at poetry and arts & cultural festivals all over the world, and was a Featured Poet with the Austin International Poetry Festival 10 times, giving performances and workshops all over Texas, as well as twice winning Austin’s Christina Sergeyevna Award for Outstanding Writing. Between1999-2002 she led workshop residencies/readings in all the universities on the West Bank and spent several months in the Gaza Strip working with students from all three of Gaza’s main universities, collaborating with Palestinian PEN and the British Council. She also read successfully in Israel at the University of Tel Aviv and in West Jerusalem.

In both 2009 and 2010 she was a poetry workshop facilitator, speaker and reader in the annual week-long Creative Arts Programme organised by the Ministry of Education, Singapore, working with hundreds of Singaporean students aged 14-17 years, and between January-July 2010 was Writer-in-Residence with the Writers Centre, Singapore, working with schools and community groups all over the island.   Agnes also performed as an invited poet at the       Babylon Festival of Arts & Culture in Babylon, Iraq, three times. In February 2017 she was invited to perform at the Granada International Poetry Festival in Nicaragua, and during the year will also participate in the Formosa International Poetry Festival in Taiwan, with an invitation to read at the World Poetry Days in Mongolia in the pipeline.

Agnes has given many successful workshops on writing and performing poetry in the corporate sector, where creative self-expression is seen as an important part of managerial development for people in business, and also in schools and community groups both in the UK and internationally. She also worked with Indian Classical Dance for many years, writing & narrating shows for some of the UK’s leading Indian Dancers and touring with them in the UK.

Since 2004 she has been running Loose Muse, the capital’s premiere event for women writers in Central London, featuring some of the capital’s best women poets and writers. Since then Loose Muse has literally hosted hundreds of women writers from both the UK and overseas, from across the spectrum of genres, to a total audience of many thousands, and oversees satellite Loose Muse events in other parts of the country. Loose Muse will celebrate 14 years of operation in London in September 2017

Agnes has produced five collections of poetry, entitled “You and Me”, “Quantum Love”, “Woman”, and “At Damascus Gate on Good Friday”, and “This One Is For You”, the latter three published by Flipped Eye/Waterways Publishing. A sixth collection is planned later in 2017. She has also produced a CD of her poetry with music, called “Blues Shakin’ My Heels’. Agnes has also been a Poetry Adviser for Channel 4 TV.

As well as being a successful poet, Agnes has also been a freelance fundraising consultant for many years, working with charities across the spectrum all over the UK, and helping them to raise funds for their important work. But she is the first to admit that (apart from writing) her not very secret first love is travelling, and is convinced she was a nomad in a past life. Since she was 20 she has kept a very old and now crumbling map of the world, and has marked all the voyages she has taken over the past decades. The one life-long dream she still harbours is to travel along the Silk Road all the way from Beijing in the East to Rome in the West, and is quietly obsessed with the idea of it.

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Richard J. Dumbrill

Richard J. Dumbrill was born in 1947, France. He Studied music at Reims (piano, harmony, fugue, counterpoint, composition, direction, analysis, classics).

Moved to Fez from 1975 onwards to study the traditional music and organology. He was appointed Director of Dar Hadara and of the Institut de musicologie et organologie arabe. There he created his own Moorish mediaeval orchestra. Studied Music in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Moved back to London and has worked at the British Museum since 1988.

Richard Dumbrill is the founder of ICONEA, the international conference of Near Eastern archaeomusicology (last two conferences held at the British Museum and at the Sorbonne Paris IV) he is senior editor of the conference proceedings along with Irving Finkel; senior editor of ARANE (Archaeomusicolgical Review, Near East). He sits internationally as a PhD defense Jury and conducts PhD theses. Richard Dumbrill is considered as the leading world authority in the Music of the Ancient Near East and has published numerous articles and two major works: The Archaeomusicology of the Ancient Near East, and The Idiophones of the Ancient Near East in the Collections of the British Museum. He is about to publish other works on the Silver Lyre of Ur, and the Elamite Harps of Assyria; The Seals and Seal Impressions of musical scenes in the Collections of the British Museum, as well as other works, notably an English translation of Al-Farabi’s Book of Music. He is currently replicating the Mesopotamian instrumentarium of the Ancient Near East with some of his students. He appears often on musical programmes of the BBC, etc.

Presentation at Tunis 2010
This presentation will discuss the most recent discoveries in Ancient Sumerian/Babylonian music theory. This come from cuneiform texts dating from the third to the first millennium BC and shows that Babylonian scholars had devised musical systems that the Greeks only discovered a 1000 to 500 years later. The Nippur mathematical tables dating from about 2300 BC confirmed that the Babylonians had invented musical quantification 1500 years before the Greeks thought about it, and that these numbers were the basis for Plato’s famous ‘number’. We find that much later, such great names as Farabi, Kindi, Rushd, Sina, etc. were all direct inheritors of the Babylonian genius, as well as Western scholars such as Boethius, Mersenne, Salinas, etc.

Richard Dumbrill is a leading expert in the archaeomusicology of the Ancient Near and Middle East. His publications include The Archaeomusicology of the Ancient Near East and the Idiophones of the Ancient Near East in the Collections of the British Museum. In preparation: The Silver Lyre of Ur, with Myriam Marcetteau and the Elamite Harps, with Margaux Bousquet; a translation of Farabi’s works on music and a catalogue of the cylinder seals with musical scenes in the collections of the British Museum. Richard Dumbrill is the founder of ICONEA, (International Conference of Near Eastern Archaeomusicology) with conferences held at the British Museum and at the Sorbonne University Paris. Other conferences are planned at Ankara, Isfahan, Shiraz and Beirut.

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