Treasury of Claremont Music

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Emad Gabra

Emad Gabra was born and raised in Egypt and always enjoyed listening to music while growing up, a hobby that would serve him well later on as a group performer. While in high school, Emad learned to play the oud, (a pear-shaped stringed neck lute styled instrument), with assistance from a friend as well as gracious local musicians who passed along tips for mastering the instrument. A self-taught musician, Emad developed a keen interest in a range of musical styles from different cultures, leading him to explore these regions at length. Pursuing these musical interests, Emad has traveled extensively and lived throughout Egypt, Nepal, Bangladesh, and India. While in Bangladesh, Emad even had the honor of performing live on Bangladeshi television and meeting the prime minister. Following his travels, at the request of his father, Emad spent eight years in medical school but decided against pursuing a career as a doctor.


The call of music and the world led Emad to Claremont where he settled in 1990. Over the years, Emad has worked at the Village Grill, (which was owned by some of his relatives at that time), and Some Crust Bakery. 


Other local musicians quickly recognized Emad’s presence and talent in Claremont, many of whom would become musical collaborators. One of these collaborators was Norma Tanega, the talented Claremont musician, artist, and teacher. The two quickly formed a strong connection, working and performing together for many years. Another frequent musical collaborator is local musician, Rufi Barnes. 


Emad has performed locally at a wide-range of musical venues including The Press, The Hip Kitty, Walter’s Restaurant, Blackwatch Pub, the Claremont Forum, The dA Center for the Arts, and the Claremont Colleges. Throughout his career, his concerts have been well received by attendees and have seen positive reviews in local newspapers and publications. 


Starting in 2009, through his connection with Claremont’s Folk Music Center, Emad began playing yearly at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. In 2011, his group of musicians and dancers and were awarded “Best of the Best” honors at the year’s festivities.


Emad hopes to see more music venues and special events in Claremont where the musicians are paid a fair wage. Throughout his life, local partnerships and collaborations in Claremont and beyond, have had a key influence on Emad. As he describes, “Every person I played with was my teacher.”


Photography by Althea Sachs