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Abaji is a Lebanese-born multi-instrumentalist, singer, and composer. “When I was ten or eleven, I got really involved with sounds. Not just the guitar, but the sounds themselves.”

From a musical family—Abaji’s Armenian grandmother played the oud (lute), his great-grandmother the kanun (zither), and his six maternal aunts were all passionate and contentious musicians. Abaji started playing and experimenting on an inexpensive Chinese-built guitar alone in his Beirut bedroom, listening to Cat Stevens, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Bob Dylan, while strains of Oum Kaltoum and Turkish music drifted in the window. His musical education began in earnest when he fled to Paris after conflict erupted in Lebanon in the mid-1970s. “I was saved from war, but war also saved me,” Abaji reflects.

He realized that music was his calling and began studying percussion with an inspiring Brazilian player, soon moving on to voraciously explore dozens of other instruments. “I went through a whole life of instruments,” Abaji muses. “I’m still buying instruments. Sometimes friends tell me, ‘Hey, you don’t know how to play those instruments! Why did you buy them?’ My answer: “Because I don’t know how to play them!” Abaji’s passion for instruments—and he has more than 250—stems from his deep desire to take the sounds he began to hear as a young man and turn them into uniquely vibrant, uniquely personal music.


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