Born in Aleppo, Fathi al-Jarrah is considered one of the great contemporary masters of classical Arabic music. He has composed for many of the great Arab singers of the late 20th century, and while he is known primarily for playing the violin, he also plays the ‘ud, trumpet, and percussion. He is one of very few musicians who have intense and deep working knowledge of Arabic folk music and its history.
He began studying music at the age of 7, when he studied violin at the Aleppo Music Institute for five years and graduated with honors. A virtuoso even at an early age, when he was teenager, he played violin for United States president Jimmy Carter, After, he studied classical music with Russian violinist Georgy Khodjaiev for six years. In 1980, al-Jarrah embarked on his own musical explorations, independently studying, researching, and playing Arabic music. When he was 20, he composed and released his first recording. In 1983, he formed the Quartet of Tarab, a trio of Syrian master singers.
Since then, he has written for many popular singers in the Arab world, including the songs “Ya Habayeb Ma Ansak” and “Ayel Mani Ayel,” and may more. Several of his songs have become classics in the canon of Syrian folk music, likely to be played for many generations to come. He has toured with most of the master singers and legends of Arabic music, and before moving to North America, played with the master of Syrian classical music, Sabah Fakhri.
He has continued his academic work in Arabic music, including working along side master composer and researcher Nouri Eskandar. The two have collected, documented, played and recorded Syrian liturgical music from 200 CE – 1800 CE. He has also, of course, studied the history and music of Aleppo in great depth.
In addition to being a performer and researcher of music, he has extensive teaching experience. Between 1980 and 1984, he taught post-graduate music at the Conservatory of Music in Aleppo, and for two years after that, taught at the Al-Assad Academy of Military Sciences. He holds a degree in physics, and has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1996.