Rachel Beckles Willson

I was born in London and find myself returning to London regularly, even after long periods of study and research elsewhere (Berlin, Budapest, Los Angeles, New York). Most of my work – as a performer, writer and composer – currently focuses on the oud.

In an earlier life I was a concert pianist, following training at the Royal Academy of Music, London and the Liszt Academy, Budapest, where I was a student of Ferenc Rados and Gyorgy Kurtág. I also studied composition and saxophone, and performed widely in Europe as soloist and in ensembles, broadcasting regularly for Hungarian radio with a specialism in new music.

I discovered the oud while doing research into music in Palestine, and have subsequently transformed my music-making. I studied oud with Necati Celik in Istanbul, and became a regular student at Labyrinth Musical Seminars in Crete, 2010-2015. While there I worked on makam composition with Ross Daly along with singing, improvising and performing with many celebrated teachers (Christos Barbas, Ahmed Erdogdular, Omer Erdogdular, Harris Lambrakis, Yurdal Tokcan, Evgenios Voulgaris). While participating in the Arab Music Retreat, Massachusetts I also worked with Ali Jihad Racy, Simon Shaheen and Charbel Rohana.

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During these years of discovery I played regularly with London-based ensembles Nihavent and Suzidil, as well as distinguished musicians in Arab, Persian and Ottoman traditions (Ahmad AlSalhi, Nilufar Habibian, Stavroula Constanti). I have also led several concert enterprises combining my interests in research, composition, performance and literature.

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Currently I am Professorial Research Associate at SOAS, University of London, where I am Director of the Middle East Ensemble and teach oud. As a scholar, I have published numerous articles and books, including Orientalism and Musical Mission: Palestine and the West (2013), and Ligeti, Kurtag, and Hungarian Music during the Cold War (2007).

For more information please visit my personal website.

Please contact me by clicking here.


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