Ali Khattab picked up his first guitar in his family home in Cairo. Without tuition, or even much information on guitars in Egypt, he slowly learned how to tune and play the instrument. As he was learning he came across the music that would set the course of his life: amongst the Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin albums he found cassettes by Paco de Lucía and Manolo Sanlúcar. The sound of the flamenco guitar and its emotional impact – the duende – eventually drew Ali to Jerez de la Frontera in Andalucía where he immersed himself in the music in bars and get-togethers.
In his own words, he immediately started playing flamenco guitar in an ‘Arabic style’. The maqamat (melodic modes of Arabic music) were in his blood and these fed directly into the flamenco palos and his unique style, with roors in the North and South banks of the Mediterranean, began to form without contrivance or artifice.
In the same natural way Ali began to compose, gathering like-minded musicians around him as his musical vision formed. The conversation between these styles has been the basis of his success to date, which includes two highly praised albums: ‘Al-Zarqa’ (2010) and ‘Sin País’ (2014).
His group has extended to include violin, ney, percussion, double bass, and flamenco and Sufi singers.