African Musician Hamza El Din Dead at 76
Thu, 01 Jun 2006 11:00:42
Hamza El Din has passed away in a Berkeley, California hospital, following complications that arose from a gallbladder infection. The influential North African composer was 76, and is survived by his wife, Nadra.
El Din has been dubbed the "father of Nubian music," and his decades-long career helped bring widespread attention to the sounds of his native North Africa, while carving out his own style by blending Arabic and Western influences. He was perhaps best known for his mastery of the oud, a pear-shaped stringed instrument that is related to the lute.
El Din was introduced to American audiences in the mid-'60s, when he released a pair of albums on Vanguard and played at the Newport Folk Festival. He spent most of his time thereafter in the Bay Area, and released what many regard as his masterpiece, Escalay: The Water Wheel, in 1971. He would go on to collaborate with Kronos Quartet, film director Peter Sellars, and the Grateful Dead, with whom he played at the Great Pyramids in 1978.
"Hamza taught me about the romancing of the drum," Dead drummer Mickey Hart told the San Francisco Chronicle. "His music was very subtle and multilayered."
Not content with mastering the mystery of just one instrument, El Din was a lifelong student of music, spending time in Japan to study the biwa (another lute relative), and also in Rome to study classical guitar and Western music. He also taught ethnomusicology at a number of American universities. El Din later became a regular performer on the festival circuit, and last released an album, A Wish, in 1999.
--The ARTISTdirect Staff