Famous Qanun Player Hicham Chami

Hicham Chami is a musician from Morocco who plays the qanun, a plucked box zither-type classical instrument. Today he is a research fellow at the University of Florida and has received recognition and awards for his talent and performances throughout the years.

Born in Tetouan of Morocco, in the year 1977, music ability appears to run in Chami’s family, with his father being one of the founders of the Moroccan Philharmonic Orchestra. Hicham Chami began attending the National Conservatory of Music and Dance, located in Rabat, at eight years of age, taking up the qanun. He made a name for himself, playing solo on graduation day for all four years he attended the Conservatory. The teacher who had the most influence in Hicham’s musical career was P. Mohamed Belkhayat, who taught oud and was a composer. On graduating from the Conservatory he gained a Diploma of Honor and First Prize for the Class of Qanun.

Hicham Chami participated in a number of festivals and concerts. Amongst these was the Festival of Plucked Strings, when he performed alongside the National Turkish Orchestra’s Ahmet Meter. While performing with the Conservatory’s Oriental Music Orchestra, Chami also joined the Quintet of Arabic Music and Trio Shahnaz.

Following his successes in Morocco, Hicham Chami moved to the United States at the age of twenty-two. Here he continued his education at DePaul University’s Kellstadt School of Business in Chicago. While studying in Chicago he joined Taqaseem. In 2001 he went on the Arabic Music Retreat with Simon Shaheen, a step that lead to even greater things for Chami. Here he was able to meet a number of talented musicians, as well as studying the qanun with Jamal Sinno. He went on to form collaborations with Neal Clarke, Yoel Ben-Simhon, Al Sharvarsh Bardezbanian, and Beth Borgerhoff, all of whom he met at the retreat. Other opportunities arose in Chicago, including Hicham working with Issa Boulos and the TiTiko Ensemble.

Things just kept moving forward for Hicham Chami in 2002, who along with Cindy Infantino began Xauen Music, Inc to create a database of Oriental scores. That same year he worked with Catherine Alexander (a percussionist) on his first studio recording, and was named “Best Exotic Instramentalist” by Chicago magazine. 2003 saw Hicham putting together an ensemble called Mosaic, and Xauen Music launching a magazine called Tarab. During the year he took part in a number of performances as well as an Urban Gateways program for school children.

Since then Hicham Chami has kept busy, bringing major musicians together to record songs by Sayyed Darweesh and producing a concert for Souad Massi through Xauen Music. From tours and concerts to radio shows and TV appearances, Hicham Chami has truly made a name for himself, while highlighting Arabic music in the western world.