from Damascus to Berlin

Listen to Album

From Damascus To Berlin

From Damascus to Berlin charts the experience of approaching an

unknown destiny. After four months of having been separated from his

oud for the first time in his life, Arbaain began to write the songs that

now make up this album.

The songs reflect the geography of his experience on the move, seeking

asylum in Europe and the (re-)negotiation of the meaning of home.

Including traditional Damascene songs as well as a new interpretation of

Schubert’s Der Leiermann, the album is an archaeology of the

many unknowns faced during forced migration and how music and memory create a new understanding of connection to place

Nabil Arbaain: Oud and Composition

Matthias Haffner: Percussion

Genre: Instrumental, Oriental


Fourteen months after leaving Damascus,
living temporarily in many countries and capitals on my journey,
I suddenly found myself back home as I walked down Sonnenalle for the first time.
Immediately, I started to feel a strong spiritual connection with Berlin,
recalling the warm memories and images of my hometown, Damascus.On Sonnenallee, “The Arabic Street”, as we ‘Arabs’ like to call it, I heard Arabic music blasting through the open doors and windows of shops and cafés; I saw people smoking shisha along the sidewalks, restaurants with traditional dishes, Arabic language on all the shop signs and in conversations it was a magical moment, when I realized I was feeling this strong level of connection right in the centre of Europe. I started to feel at home in Berlin, this amazing city, which has become a new home for people from all over the world. The melting pot of Arabic and European scales in this piece represents the highest gratitude I could express to my new “home away from home”.
This is my ode to Berlin.

Nabil Arbaain: Oud and Composition

Matthias Haffner: Percussion

Genre: Instrumental, Oriental

Forbidden Happiness

There are many kinds of forbidden happiness –
exile, borders, walls, distances and not finding love,
all of these are forces that restrain and restrict us.
This piece tries to transcend this struggle.
Reflections on my own life
and lives of people around me inspired me to write this song.
The recurring theme in the melody represents the question: “Why?’

Nabil Arbaain: Oud and Composition

Matthias Haffner: Percussion

Genre: Instrumental, Oriental

Songs from Damascus

I grew up listening and playing this collection of Damascene songs.
Together, these songs could be called ‘Wasleh’
which means a collection of songs that share the same ‘Maqam’ or scale.
The first Maqam used is called ‘Rast’ which carries over the first two songs,
followed by ‘Saba’ in the third one. This old traditional music can still be heard today in many places in Damascus. Every Syrian associates these songs with Syria.
This track is a homage to my hometown. The third song has an especially interesting story.
It’s called Raqset Sitti, or ‘My Grandmother’s Dance,’ and is specially composed for elderly women to dance to its spirited melodies in parties with a specific dance designed to be performed while sitting.
This song recreates the nicest moments with my grandmother
when I was a child, watching her dance while playing it on my oud.

Nabil Arbaain: Oud

Matthias Haffner: Percussion


Raqset Alhawanem: Arabic Traditional Music

Ya mal Elsham: Abu Khalil Qabbani

Raqset Sitti: Omar Al-Naqshbndi

Genre: Instrumental, Oriental, Folk

Musical Producer: Dr. Waldo Fabian Garrido

Recording & Mix: Frank Kerestedjian

Recorded & Mixed at High Wave Studios Berlin


This new interpretation of the famous finale of Schubert’s
Winterreise is played with oud, electric guitar, FX and percussion and is sung by Simon Schmidt.
While the aesthetic of the original composition is driven by the romantic image of a winter landscape,we place the piece in a modern urban setting.
The mellow 3/4 beat of the original is turned into a hypnotic 9/8 beat, reflecting the pulsating rhythm of the city. Slight traces of oriental melodic ornaments support Schubert’s original inspiration,
drawing from ancient musical traditions that put a modal melody against a static drone in the foreground. Through an emotional climax the psychological journey of Winterreise is explored from a modern and eclectic approach, while still maintaining the intensity of the original.

Simon Schmidt: Guitar, Singer & Arrangement

Nabil Arbaain: Oud

Ali Hasan: Percussion

Genre: Fusion Composer: Franz Schuber

Going Back

This song, written for oud and vocal, tries to grasp
this intimate relationship between
my instrument and the human voice.
The text was written by the Syrian poet Fady Jomar.
It was sung by Rana Diab. This song is an expression
of the exiled will of hope to return home.

Nabil Arbaain: Oud and Composition

Rana Diab: Singer

Fady Jomar: Writer

Genre: Singing, Oriental

Friday Market

In the heart of Damascus, Friday Market is the street where I spent the first 33 years of my life.
This old and unique street was part of the first neighborhood located outside of the otherwise walled, old Damascus, where people began to settle around 800 years ago.
Some of the first people to live there were scientists and Sufis. With time, the innovation and spirituality of this area began to attract students from all over the world. On this street, depending on the time of day, you can experience three completely different worlds.
Before dawn, the street is calm with nothing but the sound of sweet Sufi chants echoing from the mosque towers as people come for the first morning prayer. In the afternoon, you will find noisy markets with stands along both sides of the street selling everything in open air. The sounds of passionate bargaining, donkeys carrying baskets of mint and cilantro, children screaming and playing. This long and narrow street attracts hundreds of people, each in search of something else. At night, it becomes a place to relax and socialize. Shops turn into restaurants with local food and drinks. Hummus, Fatteh, Falafel and even some people drinking beer concealed in coke cans.
From the place to pray, to the place to buy, to the place to hang out until just hours
before the cycle repeats itself again – this is a street that never sleeps.
The clash of these three worlds inspired this Ternary form of melody.

Nabil Arbaain: Composer

Babylon Orchestra

Mischa Tangian: Arrangement and Conduction

Solo Oud: Wassim Mukdad Genre: Orchestra, Oriental

Album Images