In the wake of the first Gulf War, Kurdistan-Iraq was a region devastated by conflict and suffering under twin trade embargoes imposed by the UN on Iraq, and by Saddam Hussein on the Kurds. It was in this environment that the cellist and composer Khabat Abas learnt to play her instrument. While performing with various ensembles, including the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, Abas adapted her instrument and performance practice to her war-torn environment, where she did not have access to supplies to fix strings or make repairs. Using knotted strings and improvised materials, she fashioned instruments, sounds and ways of playing that emerged from and reflected the realities of life in a warzone.
In her compositional and improvisatory practice, Abas has used these experiences to deconstruct the ‘perfect’ cello of Western classical tradition. Abas explores new ways of playing and new physical relationships with the instrument, as well the cultural properties of the objects and materials themselves. Recently, she has extended her adaptations of the cello into digital and algorithmic sound processing.
Khabat Abas studied at the Iraq Institute of Fine Art and Music (Music Diploma, 2000), the Ljungskile College of Music, Sweden (2009), Gothenburg University (2017) and Goldsmiths College Music Diploma, University of London (2018). Her head teacher was Patrik Harryson, which is Solo cellist in Gothenburg Opera house. She has taken part in workshops in cello performance and improvisation with Yo-Yo Ma, Eddie Prévost, Peter Schoening and others. She has performed as a soloist and in ensembles in London, Berlin, Gothenburg, Malmö and Kurdistan, and with orchestras in Slemani (Kurdistan) and Gothenburg.