The notorious musical prodigy Bassam Saba recently passed away at the age of 61 from the infectious COVID-19 after being under intensive care at the American University of Beirut Hospital.
The multi-instrumentalist is one of Lebanon’s big losses as he’d been the director of Lebanon’s National Conservatory since 2018. But other than just that, Saba was known to link eastern and western music and worked with notable famed musicians.
Bassam Saba studied nay, oud, and violin at the Lebanon National Conservatory. He continued his music education at the Conservatoire Municipal des Gobelins in Paris, where he received his BA in Western Classical Music and Flute Performance.
He then went on at the Gnessin Musical Pedagogical Institute in Moscow, obtaining a Master’s in Western Flute Performance and Music Education.
Saba established a band in New York, which later became his pride. He continued his musical journey through the USA, Europe, the Middle East, Canada, South America, Australia, Africa, and Japan, promoting the Lebanese artistic identity which he was proud of.
He performed as a soloist for the Hanover Philharmonic, Qatar Philharmonic, Beirut Philharmonic, Zurich Orchestra, and East Oakland Bay Symphony, among others.
In fact, Saba is considered one of the most outstanding nay’s and oud’s players in the United States.
He was even recognized in 2007 as one of the 10 most outstanding artists of the decade for making a significant difference in conveying the rich Middle Eastern cultural history to American audiences through music.
Saba performed and recorded music with several top Lebanese and international composers, musicians, vocalists, and jazz stars.
Among them Fairouz, Ziad Rahbani, Yo Yo Ma, Marcel Khalife, Wu Man, Simon Shaheen, Toufic Farroukhand, Kazem Al Sahir, Alicia Keys, Quincy Jone, Majida al-Roumi, Wadih al-Safi, Khaled, Santana, Souad Massi, and more.
In addition to that, Saba composed and performed with his own musical ensemble Myriad, and directed the Middle Eastern Ensemble at Harvard University.
Lebanon, indeed, just lost an unforgettable musical prodigy. The Minister of Culture, Abbas Mortada, expressed his grief in a tweet that stated, “We lost one of the pillars of the Ministry of Culture, and one of the symbols of culture, music, and art in Lebanon.”
Here is one of Saba’s blissful pieces, Waltz To My Father from his 2010 album Wonderful Land: