At about 9 years old, growing up in a village near Beirut, Lebanon, Nadim Dlaikan fell in love with the nye, a reed flute, that his brother had brought home. Nadim’s family initially was not supportive of his interest in the nye because it was tradionally associated with shepherds. His brother didn’t want Nadim playing his flute, but the youngster did so on the sly. Then he made his own from local bamboo and continued trying to learn to play. A turning point came when he saw Naim Bitar, the country’s leading nye player, on television. One of Nadim’s sisters called the station, and Nadim spoke to Bitar, who agreed to work with him at the National Conservatory. Seeing that the boy was serious, his family became supportive, and his oldest sister drove him to the conservatory twice a week for his lessons. He graduated after nine years of study and become a professional musician.
After playing for a Fourth of July celebration at the American Embassy, Nadim toured the United States with his band and decided to stay. He lived first in New York City, then moved to the Detroit area, which has a large Middle Eastern population. “The community is getting bigger and bigger,” he told NEA interviewer Mary K. Lee. “I perform now with players of all different nationalities — Armenians, Arabs, Turks — because their music is very similar.” He performs regularly and continues to make several types of flutes, using bamboo grown in his back yard. “I’m the only one who makes this instrument in the U.S.,” he said. “People call from all over the country to order flutes, all types of flutes.”
Nadim has taught others to play the instrument, but he says it requires real dedication “because it’s got open holes, not keys like a regular flute. You have to make the sound with your finger, by your feeling when you blow. It took me about six or seven years in school to learn how to play. It’s very hard to learn and to play. You have to be smart and love the instrument to play it well.”
Dlaikan has played a variety of music, including his own compositions, but he prefers to play traditional music “because it still lives on. The new songs coming out are the commercial songs; they don’t live more than two, three weeks. But people still remember the old songs, and they love them. …
“I love this instrument,” he says. “I feel like it’s a part of my body. I feel very good. With any instrument, not just the flute, if you didn’t love it you’re not going to make a very good sound. You have to hug it tight to make a good sound.”
Ameri, Anan and Yvonne Lockwood. Arab Americans in Metro Detroit: A Pictorial History (Images of America). (Chicago: Arcadia Publications, 2001.)
De Barros, Paul. “A little gray joins the colors at 35th Folklife.” http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=folklife28&date=20060528&query=paul+de+barros, online edition of the Seattle Times, May 28, 2006, accessed December 18, 2006.
Delaney, Sean. “Tuneful passions wrapped up in reeds.” http://www.pressandguide.com/stories/070404/lif_20040704031.shtm, online edition of the Press & Guide, July 4, 2004, accessed December 18, 2006.
Solis, Ted, editor. Performing Ethnomusicology: Teaching and Representation in World Music Ensemble. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.
Nadim Dlaikan, 2002 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Nadim Dlaikan, Courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Nadim Dlaikan answers the question 'What is the positioning of the flute? Why do you play it to the side of your mouth?' Arlington, Virginia, 2002, interview by Alan Govenar
Nadim Dlaikan answers the question 'When did you come to the United States?' Arlington, Virginia, 2002, interview by Alan Govenar
Nadim Dlaikan answers the question 'Could you talk a little about growing up and your childhood?' Arlington, Virginia, 2002, interview by Alan Govenar
Nadim Dlaikan plays an improvisation called a takasim on his flute, Arlington, Virginia, 2002, recorded by Alan Govenar
Nadim Dlaikan answers the question 'What kind of a reed do you use?' Arlington, Virginia, 2002, interview by Alan Govenar
Nadim Dlaikan plays a * dabkh*, or circle dance, on his flute, Arlington, Virginia, 2002, recorded by Alan Govenar