Issam Rafea – Home

Oud virtuoso and composer Issam Rafea is now based in the U.S.A. and is available for performances, masterclasses, workshops and private lessons in person and via Skype.

Essam_Rafea_Web_1Issam Rafea is the Winner of the 2010 “Best Composer Award” in Dubai International Film Festival (Muhr Arab) in the film “Matar Ayloul,” “September Rain.”  Rafea is the Chair of the Arabic Music Department at High Institute of Music in Damascus and the principal conductor of Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music. Rafea has studied under Fayez Zahr El-Din, Aref Abdallah, and Askar Ali-Akbar. In 1995, he received his bachelor’s degrees in Oud and Double Bass performance, as well as Oriental Conducting from the High Institute of Music in Damascus. He is also on the faculty in the institute teaching Oud. In Syria, Rafea has been an active composer and arranger for TV and Theater since the 90s.

In addition to several solo appearances with the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra which was conducted by Solhi Al Wadi, Rafea has performed internationally in countries like France, Spain, Germany, Holland, Italy, Morocco, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Kuwait and United States. He participated in festivals such as the Mediterranean Festival in Algeria, the World Universal Expo in Seville, Spain, Spiritual Music Festival Marseille, France, The Arabic Music Conferences in Cairo, and Babel Festival in Iraq.

Rafea is the Co-founder and Oudist for the contemporary Arabic music group “Hewar.” Hewar has performed in several countries such as UAE, Egypt, Germany, UK, France, Japan, and USA. In 2011 and 2012 the group participated in the Morgenland Festival in Osnabrueck, Germany with successful performances that resulted in the production of a new album “ Letters to a Homeland” featuring a live performance of the group. Rafea also founded “Twais Quartet,” a group that performs both original compositions by Rafea and traditional Arabic music works.

Rafea collaborates internationally with groups like “Gorillaz” arranging five works that were performed by the Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music. It was recorded in Damascus Opera house. One piece was selected to be in “Gorillaz” album “Plastic Beach” in 2009. The project was concluded with an international tour in UK, Europe, Lebanon, Syria, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia. Additionally, Rafea participated in a series of concerts and workshops during 2010 with the students of Royal Academy in Denmark as part of the Syrian-Danish cultural cooperation. He was also invited by the German institute in Ankara, Turkey to participate in an electronic music concert.

In March of 2013 Rafea was invited to the United States to direct the Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, and give a series of presentations and performances at Northern Illinois University School of Music. While he was in Illinois, Rafea performed with guitar virtuoso Fareed Haque in multiple cross cultural collaborations. Rafea currently resided in Illinois and continues to perform, compose and teach throughout his visit.