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London-based Syrian
oud player, composer

& Community Workshop Leader

Copyright © 2016-present Rihab Azar

"Infinitely tender and haunting"
-The Arts Desk


​Rihab was born in the Syrian city, Homs to a musical family. Her father, luthier Samir Azar made her first oud and started teaching her when she was 7 years old.

She continued her musical quest later at the Conservatoire of Damascus and was taught by masters of the oud in Syria including Prof. Askar Ali Akbar, Issam Rafea, Mohamad Osman and Ayman Aljesry.


The influences at the Conservatoire included Azerbaijani, Arabic, Turkish and Western

classical music which allowed Rihab an understanding and practice of various genres.

In 2014, She became the first woman oudist to perform accompanied by the Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music. The same year marked her graduation and starting as a teacher’s assistant for music theory subject at the Conservatoire of Damascus.

Rihab was the oud player of the "Syrian Female Oriental Takht" from 2006 until 2015, the year in which she moved to the UK on a scholarship to do a Master's degree in Music Education at IOE, UCL.

Arts Council England recognised her as a musician of "Exceptional Promise" in December 2016, which enabled her to continue her professional pursuit in the UK under the “Migrant Talent” scheme.


Rihab has performed internationally since 2008 and has had memorable collaborations with Cantata Dramatica,London Sinfonietta,The Third Orchestra, Stile Antico, Surge Orchestra and Theatre of the Voice, DK.


She has performed at iconic spaces in the UK such as The Royal Opera House, The Royal Institution, Barbican Centre, The Southbank Centre, King's Place, Wigmore Hall, St.Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, The British Library, The British Museum, Ashmolean Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum.

Rihab has been increasingly writing original music for solo oud, live events, commissions and various interdisciplinary works combining visual arts, story telling, theatre, cinema and radio.

As well as composition, performance, music education & community workshop leading, Rihab has had many contributions as a speaker and a writer in events/platforms addressing issues such as music & social justice, culture, war & migration, decolonisation, equity/diversity/inclusion, intercultural music-making, and education.  She was Wigmore Hall's Trainee Music Leader for 2022-23 working in participatory projects at various community settings.


Rihab has contributed as a panelist, practitioner and social advocate to workshops held by Oxford, Cambridge, Westminster Universities, King's College London , & St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace. She has a published academic contribution in Migration and Society, Berghahn Journals

Dundalk, June 24

Rihab was invited by Louth Contemporary Music Society to play in Dudnalk, Ireland alongside Zoë Conway and Inni-K. The trio performed Hamza El-Din's "Escalay" as well as their solo works. This was Rihab's first time performing in Ireland.

Leeds, May 24

Rihab opened Lau-Land festival's first night in a memorable performance that received a unique press mention: "an exquisite exhibition of solo oud work through a series of her own compositions. She creates a spell out of spontaneity and improvisation with this fretless, pear-shaped instrument – similar to the lute in appearance – as she strikes a beautiful balance between tradition and dreamy experimentation."

London, Feb 24

Rihab was invited to play in celebration of Islington having been awarded "Borough of Sanctuary" status

London, Dec 23

Rihab was invited to give a Salon recital accompanying an exhibition by Iraqi Artist Khulood Da'mi. You can read about the event and listen to a few pieces on the link

St Ethelburga's, London, Nov 23

Rihab was invited as a speaker & performer to contribute in the relaunch of Sound Connections' relaunch of its Music and Social Justice network. You can read the blog Rihab wrote for Sound Connections ahead of the event on the link here

The Red House, Aldeburgh, Jul 23

Eavesdropping's Juliet Fraser curated a series of concerts for Britten Pears Arts at the library of The Red House, Aldeburgh. Rihab played an acoustic solo set of classical Arabic pieces as well as her compositions on the closing date

London May 23

Celebrating Courage: Stories of Displacement & Home. "What can we learn about moral courage from those who carry histories of displacement? What are the qualities of courage that we need to cultivate for a future that includes global displacement, and where ‘home’ needs to be re-imagined? How can we uplift the ancient practice of hospitality as a tool for shared sense-making and strengthening society?" Speakers: Rihab Azar, Kolbassia Haoussou and Aarif Abraham Watch the conversation:

London Apr 23

Rihab was invited by Living Bankside to perform at the annual Iftar, Southwark Cathedral

Southampton, Mar 23

With the Third Orchestra again: The Ripple Effect: presented by Turner Sims Southampton in association with Orchestras Live.

Inclusive Cultures 2022

Rihab Wrote a reflection blog during her attendance of Inclusive Cultures Programme by Clore Leadership. The blog reflects on some of Rihab's experiences working for change within systems that resist it

London, Nov 22

Rihab & bassist Dudley Phillips were invited for a live performance as part of "Listen to the World" series held monthly by St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace. Rihab premiered a number of her original compositions Live and they were very well received. There was a Q&A between the two sets. There was a live stream which you can watch back on Youtube

Wigmore Hall, London, autumn 22

As of late September 22, Rihab started her training with Wigmore Hall's Learning department as its 22-23 Trainee Music Leader for a rich year taking part in various projects of community music making, a passion Rihab has always had and wanted to pursue as she increasingly felt more at home in the UK, 7 years in! The photo is from a session under 'Music For Life' programme making music with people living with dementia and their family members/carers/friends photo by James Berry

London, Sep 22

Rihab Azar's Trio gave their London debut performance at St James's Piccadilly as part of Embark Festival 2022. The performance received a standing ovation and the responses to it were wonderful The trio is now preparing to feature more of Rihab's original compositions in the upcoming concerts

Holbæk, July 2022

Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble Theatre of Voices & Rihab premiered "The Tree of Life", a work by British composer Nigel Osborne. The work is a beautiful storytelling about belonging, migration, war and human connections and it draws upon multiple elements of "Arabic" music with a fluent contemporary approach

Rihab was invited again to East Neuk Festival to play two live concerts, one with Folk Musician Luke Daniels and the other featuring her Trio. There were some wonderful mentions in the press of these two performances

In Tune BBC Radio 3 June 2022

Rihab and bassist Dudley Phillips were amongst Katie Derham's guests in this In Tune episode ahead of their East Neuk Festival appearance. They chatted about their collaboration and upcoming plans to introduce Rihab's original new music and enjoyed performing 3 of their favourite pieces Live at the studio.

Canterbury Cathedral, June 2022

Rihab, Stile Antico, Lemn Sissay gave a memorable performance marking Refugee Week. The programme was titled: "In a Strange Land". Photo source: Jonathan Arnold.

Westminster Abbey, June 2022

Rihab was invited to take part in commemorating the tragedy of the Grenfell tower fire on its fifth anniversary.

Brighton, May 22

Rihab was invited again (this time with her Trio) to perform at Brighton Festival in a sold-out concert at the beautiful All Saints church, Hove. Rihab's first appearance in the festival was with vocal ensemble Stile Antico

London, May 2022

Peter Wiegold's Third Orchestra re-united most of its previous members in a memorable concert at Grand Junction with a programme of new works. Peter and Rihab worked together on the foundation of one the pieces in the programme "To God's Ears" photo credit: Tatiana Gorilovsky

Birmingham, April 2022

Rihab was invited to perform in Surge in Spring festival 22. She gave a solo performance at the Midlands Arts Centre then joined the Surge Orchestra for a few pieces including her very own "Indulgence". It was so refreshing to hear a piece initially written for solo oud come to life alongside outstanding musicians and the exciting conducting of Sid Peacock!

Malmo, Sweden, April 2022

After a long Covid-induced wait Rihab was finally able to join The Baghdad Sessions ensemble to perform in Malmo. Rihab performed a solo set, duo set with Bakri Hemmami and joined the ensemble for a set of Middle-Eastern music

LAAF, 2021

"Threads" brings together three Arab women artists from Syria, Lebanon and Sudan, weaving a story of migration, songs of the Earth, of disability and the passage of time. In a journey through storytelling (Alia Alzougbi), music (Rihab Azar), visual art (Omega Mudawi-Rowlings) as well as visual poetry (Nadia Nadarajah) they explore how, while the rich tapestry of our lives may be different, a thread runs through them to bring together a sisterly home that is unbound and timeless.

The Edge, Birmingham, 2021

Surge Forward performed 4 new works at The Edge venue, one of the pieces was Rihab's "Indulgence". The concert will be available online soon

Royal Opera House London 2021

Rihab played for 3 of Little Amal's UK events. Dover, London and Birmingham. Her performance at the ROH received a special mention in The Art Desk saying: "the infinitely tender and haunting strains of Rihab Azar’s solos on the Syrian oud (artistry which I could have gladly listened to for another hour)"

Utrecht, Sep. 2021

Rihab joined Stile Antico again for "Songs of Longing and Exile", this time in Utrecht within the Early Music Festival. The warm response of the audience with a standing ovation made for such a glorious return to live performance after many months of pandemic-related difficulties

ENF, Fife, July 2021

Rihab's solo compositions set for East Neuk Festival was described by The Guardian as a "Highlight"

Singing with Nightingales, Sussex, May, 2021

Rihab joined Sam Lee for a "Singing with Nightingales" sold-out event in beautiful Sussex. The weather didn't cooperate that night (surprise!), but the event was special and memorable despite the rain and the wind! It was Rihab's first in-person Live performance in 2021 after lockdown

Eavesdropping London, Online 2021

Rihab debuted a few of her compositions in her first 2021 performance as part of Eavesdropping series for new music. In a double-bill online performance alongside Lucie Treacher, Rihab also gave the debut performance of "Rumour", a new piece for oud by Lucie Treacher and Eavesdropping's first ever commission.

Cumberland Lodge, September, 2020

Rihab joined Cantata Dramatica musicians once again, this time for an open air performance of Danyal Dhondy’s song cycle ‘Conference of the Birds’ in the garden at Cumberland Lodge. Conference of the Birds is a newly commissioned work, based on the 12th-century Persian poem of the same name, by the Sufi poet Farid ud-din Attar, ‘the Attar of Nishapur’. The music is inspired by Sufi mysticism and the improvisational styles of Indian classical music.

BBC Radio 4 drama: "Yarmouk", July 2020

During 2020 summer lockdown, Rihab wrote and arranged the oud music for the 3-part BBC Radio 4 Drama: Yarmouk

Women Of the World Festival, June, 2020

Rihab was amongst a wonderful lineup of women musicians who were invited to perform for the online edition of Women of the World 24-hour Global Festival in 2020

Cambridge Junction, 2020

Rihab gave a workshop about the oud in collaboration with Woolf Institute and Ahbab Festival. Children and adults listened to the oud, learned about the steps of it's making then made string instruments from recycled containers.

Celtic Connections, Glasgow, 2020

Luke Daniels and Rihab along with guest musician Michael Biggins gave a memorable cross-cultural performance on an evening themed around diverse duo performances

LSO St Luke's, London, Jan 2020

"Songs of Longing and Exile" tour continues in 2020 and returns to London, this time within Baroque at The Edge festival. More dates will follow

V&A Museum, London 2019

Rihab was invited to be on the panel discussing cultural practices in Syria during the war as part of "Culture During Crisis" V&A series

London, The Mosaic Rooms, Nov. 2019

Rihab was invited again to the mosaic rooms to give another demonstration of the oud within Family Fun Series. This time, everyone was hands-on making simple string instruments and experimenting with different sounds!

Copenhagen & Oslo, 2019

Rihab shared the stage with two remarkable musicians from Aleppo, Ibrahim Muslimani who lives in Turkey and Bakri Hemmami who lives in Denmark. The trio gave two memorable concerts inspired by Sufi music and tied into the screenings of documentary film "Wajd". Wajd is a beautiful film featuring three Syrian musicians and their relationship with Sufi music, prior to and after 2011

Traquair House, Scotland, 2019

Rihab was invited back at Beyond Borders Festival Scotland to join World-renowned composer Nigel Osborne for the second year, along with three wonderful women musicians. Osborne gave a presentation and a promenade about music and migration in a rich combination of history and carefully-selected repertoire

Watts Gallery, Surrey, 2019

"Music of the Middle-East" was the title of the sold-out concert Rihab Azar Trio gave at Watts Gallery Artists' Village

Wigmore Hall, London, 2019

"Songs of Longing and Exile" is the name of the concert series by renowned vocal ensemble Stile Antico and Rihab Azar. Premiered in Hove and performed second at Wigmore Hall, London, the collaboration will continue touring in 2020.

Kaleidoscope Quartet, England Tour

Music Memes is a project by English folk singer and multi-instrumentalist Luke Daniels who brought along three other musicians from different traditions to perform on tour in England. Influences included South-African music, Irish, English, Arab, Turkish and Chinese. The project included creating Music Meme App that allows the user to create their own pieces from existing music "memes"

Rihab Azar Trio, Salisbury, 2019

In a fresh collaboration with percussionist Corrina Silvester and bassist Dudley Phillips, the trio gave a memorable concert at Salisbury Arts Centre as part of Salisbury International Arts Festival

Cheltenham Jazz Festival, 2019

Rihab demonstrated the oud, some Arabic Maqams and rhythms to a lovely audience. The range of age was fascinating. Children as young as 4 and adults as young as 90 ;)

The Third Orchestra, 2019

In the Orchestra’s first incarnation, 22 innovative music creators from musicians from across world traditions and contemporary music disciplines come together with musical director Peter Wiegold in a week of workshop and performance at the Barbican. The Third Orchestra builds on the innovative cross-cultural work of Club Inégales, with partners Barbican, Serious, Guildhall School and ABRSM, to shine new light on the role that a truly diverse contemporary orchestra can play

St Stephen Walbrook,London, Jan 2019

Debut of new choral pieces by Nick Bicât and Solfa Carlile performed by Cantata Dramatica Soloists, conductor James Potter, with the St Stephen Walbrook Community Choir and dancers from Middlesex University.

London, Liverpool 2018

Commissioned by Dare Festival, London and DaDaFest, Liverpool, All at Sea – is a creative collaboration between visual and performance artist Rachel Gadsden and composer Freddie Meyers featuring renowned Syrian oud player Rihab Azar. The artistic enquiry focuses on the plight of refugees who have settled in the UK, Germany and Jordan.

On tour with London Sinfonietta

"Passion" by Pascal Dusapin, a collaboration between Music Theatre Wales, National Dance Company Wales and London Sinfonietta. Rihab played the haunting oud part in this dance-opera.

Helsinki, Finland Nov 2018

Rihab was invited by Al-Teslim group for a shared performance celebrating the group's 30th anniversary within Etnosoi festival in Helsinki

Southbank Centre, October 2018

Rihab Opened the concert of Yazz Ahmed with a rich, diverse set from different Middle-Eastern and North African countries. The event was part of Southbank programme: Women in Music

Kenilworth Arts Festival 2018

After a record speed sell out of original venue, Rihab, accompanied by Jamal Alsakka on percussion, performed at the beautiful Abbey Hill United Reformed Church in an unforgettable first concert for them in Kenilworth.

Traquair House,Edinburgh,August 2018

As part of Beyond Borders International Festival in Scotland, Rihab and three musicians from different backgrounds were invited by renowned composer Nigel Osborne to demonstrate their instruments and musical backgrounds in relation to the "healing powers of music". The guests enjoyed a magical audio-visual tour at the fascinating Traquair House where each musician played their instrument in one of the breathtaking historical rooms of the oldest continually-inhabited residence in Scotland

Southbank Centre, London 2018

Rihab celebrated her Master's Degree in Music Education studied at The Institute of Education, UCL with the class of 2018. Such a special day concluding a challenging yet thrilling journey of inspiration, insight and empowerment.

St. Pancras Church, Chichester, 2018

Zamaan Trio gave a memorable performance of Middle-Eastern Music as part of Amici Concert Series and the Festival of Chichester

Cumberland Lodge, London, June 2018

Rihab shared an intimate, unique performance of Arabic music with renowned Palestinian publisher and Musician Michel Mouchabeck for the annual summer meeting of Motovun Group of International Publishers.

Willen Lake, Milton Keynes, June 2018

Rihab held a one-day workshop in Arabic music at Shenley Brook End for a number of musician-students and produced a performance that was played at Art in the Park Festival on 30th June. Photo credit: Shenley Brook End

King's College, London, June 2018

Rihab was invited to perform on the second day of the annual conference of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES)

Sofar Sounds, Manchester, June 2018

Sofar Sounds Manchester, Amnesty UK and Help Refugees put together an unforgettable secret, intimate gig in Manchester. Photo credit: Sofar Manchester

We Work, London, June 2018

"The day after World Refugee Day, UNHCR teamed up with the office space provider WeWork for two events related to refugees[...] A packed room of guests were introduced to the talents and cultural contributions of refugees. Guests enjoyed beautiful oud playing from Rihab Azar from the London Syrian Ensemble, while trying a tempting selection of tasty refugee-made food" Photo credit: WeWork

Bridgend, June 2018

Rihab toured 5 schools in Bridgend to showcase her instrument, the oud, and give a presentation about Syrian culture. This tour was part of an ongoing programme at these schools to enrich the understanding of other cultures and become "schools of sanctuary"

The Spirit of Music Festival

Zamaan Trio gave an exciting performance in Liss and celebrated the warmth of the community there that has welcomed Syrian families and made them feel at home. In the concert, Rihab introduced a fun way for non-Syrian audience members to discover their hidden talents to sing in Arabic along with their Syrian neighbours, which made the event so special and unforgettable!

Music and Memory, Oxford Uni., 2018

This workshop brought together musicians and scholars to elicit the distinct contribution of music to commemoration and healing. Panellists: Peter Grant (Senior Fellow in Grantmaking, Philanthropy and Social Investment, Cass Business School); Laura Hassler (Director, Musicians Without Borders); Rihab Azar (Musician and Performer (oud); MA in Music Education UCL); Chair: Dr Kate Kennedy (Weinrebe Research Fellow in Life-Writing, Oxford Centre for Life-Writing)

The National Museum of Denmark 2018

Rihab was invited by the Syrian Cultural Institute in Denmark for an event about the Syrian city, Homs, where she was born. The event took place at the National Museum of Denmark and included poetry, talks about the history of the city and its civil society movements. Rihab played a special programme for the event by classical musicians from the city of Homs.

Syriske Kulturcafé, Copenhagen

Invited by the Syrian Cultural Institute in Denmark, Rihab Azar and Bakri Hemmami debuted their collaboration performing gems from the classical Syrian and Arabic musical repertoire. Bakri Hemmami is a Denmark-based singer and percussionist from Aleppo, Syria

Union Chapel, London, February 2018

With her oud only, Rihab opened the concert of The Barr Brothers, folk rock band coming from Canada, playing a sold-out concert in London while on tour

Union Chapel,London,January2018

As part of "The Power of Words", an evening in recognition of Holocaust Memorial Day

SOAS, London, January 2018

Celebrating Arabic language at Brunei Gallery, SOAS, University of London. Arranged by Centre of Islamic Studies at SOAS

St. Paul's Cathedral,London Dec.2017

More than 1,500 people affected in various ways by the Grenfell Fire have come together, to remember the tragic events of the day of the fire and the 71 lives lost. Also at the service were The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, Prime Minister and Mayor of London. Rihab played the oud before and after a pre-recorded sound montage of anonymous voices from the Grenfell community, describing their experience and the aftermath.

Brighton, December 2017

"The Unheard World" second showcase. An innovating, Arts-council-England funded project by Audiovisability, combining the hearing and the deaf cultures around the theme of belonging

St Paul's, London, November 2017

Firefly International Gala. Fundraising to support locally-led education in countries affected by war

Arlington Arts Centre, October 2017

The Unheard World is a 6 month R&D exploring the experience of migration, displacement and language from a cultural and Deaf perspective

Music for British Sign Language

This is a true story of a 6 year old deaf refugee who had to flee Iraq with his family. Story written and told by Layla Fitzgerald-Woolfe in British Sign Language Music composed by Ruth Montgomery Performed by Rihab Azar, Syrian oud player Black and White photographs by Stephen Iliffe Supported by Drip Media 2017 The Unheard World Funded by Arts Council England, The Arab British Centre and Decibels Year of Sound Music, Visual arts and Sign Language

Llanelli, Wales September 2017

Zamaan Trio gave a performance at Theatrau Sir Gar in a double-bill concert featuring Adwaith band and Rihab. The event was organised by Syria Sir Gar.

Kettering, August 2017

Duo Zamaan (Rihab Azar & Jamal Alsakka) performing at Said Foundation's Amal space at Greenbelt Festival 2017

Leicester, August 2017

Duo Zamaan at Journeys Festival International

Manchester, July 2017

Rihab Azar & Jamal Alsakka launched Celebrating Syria Festival 2017 organized by Rethink, Rebuild Society.

Apple Tree House CBeebies 2017

Contributing with an oud part to the music of "Glamping" episode, Apple tree house BBC kids' show.

BBC Radio3, May 2017

"World on 3" with Lopa Kothari featured Rihab Azar in the BBCintroducing section

Institut Francias, London, May 2017

An evening of literature and music within "Beyond Words Festival" for French Literature. A collaboration with Story-teller Alia Alzougbi reading extracts from "Compass" by Mathias Enard.

British Library, London April 2017

Accompanying Sahana Pajpaie at The Knowledge Centre, the British Library celebrating the Bengali New Year, curated by the ‘Two Centuries of Indian Print’ (2CIP- Bengali) project.

The Ismaili Centre,London,March 2017

I had the pleasure of playing at this special cultural platform for a full house accompanied by Mr. Jamal Al-Sakka from Syria

London, January 2017

A Very special and intimate oud night at ALEF Bookstores for the second time. The event sold out by the fifth day of promoting it.

London, November 2016

Performing as part of the events of "Nour Festival" for 2016, The Royal Albert Hall. The place was fully-booked three weeks before the performance

"Oud Migrations", October 2016

Interview with researcher Rachel Beckles Willson about my experience as a performer and teacher. This was the opening of Oud Migrations' strand about female oud players

London, May 2016

"Sounds from Beirut to Damascus" sponsored by "Arts Canteen". The Courtyard Theatre

Richmond, June 2016

"Refugees Welcome in Richmond" The aim of the event was to celebrate Syrian culture, raise awareness of what’s been going on in Syria, and gather support to provide people fleeing the war with homes in the London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames.

London, March 2016

Oud Night at ALEF Bookstore in collaboration with Taqasim Music School

Damascus, 2014

With The National Orchestra for Arabic Music- The Opera House

Damascus, 2014

Practicing in the yard of The Conservatoire, days before my solo performance with the National Orchestra for Arabic Music. Photo Credit: Mahmoud Al-Zafari

Damascus, 2011

The Syrian Female Oriental Takht at The Opera House

Rihab & Lavalu 2013

"After making acquaintance with SPIJKERROK and the musical options available, Rihab chose to contribute an oud part to a Lavalu song on the recently released album Fighting Wildfires. The two women communicated by email and Skype through a shaky internet connection, discussing how they could best include the oud on 'When it's over'. At one point the bombs falling on Damascus were clearly audible in an Arnhem living room."

Muscat, 2012

At The Royal Opera House with the Syrian Female Oriental Takht and other ensembles

Damascus, 2012

Distinguished students' concert at the Opera House

Homs, Syria

Rihab's father, Samir Azar was her first oud teacher. He made her first oud at his home workshop and started teaching her when she was 7 years old. This photo was taken when the late Dr. Ratiba El-Hefny, then the director of Egypt's Opera House visited the family's home during her visit to Syria. Dr. El-Hefny was keen to invite Rihab as a child prodigy to perform at Egypt's Opera House. However, the family thought back then it was too early for child Rihab to have such big exposure.

Homs, 1990

Early curiosity about the oud! My home city

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