Omar Khairat

Doctor of Letters, honoris causa

Cape Breton University is proud to honour the outstanding leadership and professional career of Omar Khairat.

Born in 1948 to an artistic family in Cairo, today, Omar Khairat is one of the most successful and influential Egyptian composers of all time. His uncle, Abu-Bakr Khairat founded the Egyptian conservatory and was also its first Dean.

At the age of nine, having already taken piano lessons for five years, Mr. Khairat further developed his musical talents at the conservatoire under the direction of Italian Maestro Vincenzo Carro.  Following this, he continued his studies in music theory and composition at Trinity College in London.  He was awarded honorary degrees from the University of Wales in 2013 and the American University in Cairo, in 2015.

Following his studies in piano and musical theory, Mr. Khairat started composing musical scores for Egyptian cinema, television, theatre and the ballet. His music is influenced by Arabic and European classical music, Egyptian and African traditional music, as well as, jazz, pop and blues. Given the diversity of his musical influences, Mr. Khairat is acknowledged as one of the first composers to mix the quarter tone with classical music.

In 1979, Mr. Khairat’s compositions began to gain recognition from both listeners and critics. His first major work was the musical score for the popular movie, “The Night of Fatima’s Arrest”.  This musical score became his first major hit and is still widely adored by the public. It was also the first time in the Arab music industry that a movie score became an audio cassette.

His repertoire of cinema includes more than fifty works. In the score for the popular television drama, “Bangles”, Mr. Khairat first introduced a western harmonic flair to the classical Arabic music structure.  This led Mr. Khairat to be invited to provide musical compositions for films such as “Aam Ahmed’s Case”, “The Sixth Day” and “Executing the Dead”, as well as, composing for many television dramas including, “Law in Islam”, “Abla Hikmet’s Conscience” and “A Second Meeting”.

Omar Khairat’s compositions have not been limited to movies and television drama.  He has also composed two ballets, the Canadian production, “Sorceress and the Magical Perfumes” and an Egyptian ballet entitled “The Nile”.   He has produced two operettas, “100 Years of Egyptian Cinema” and his symphonic work, “Arabian Rhapsody” in addition to the symphonic poem “Panorama October”.

Mr Khairat’s music has been internationally recognized through his participation in the festival of the three civilizations ceremony in Murcia, Spain in 2005. He composed the music for the opening ceremony of the Asian games in Doha and the music for the Pan Arab games opening ceremony in Cairo, in 2007.

Omar Khairat was invited to present his production of “Khairat’s Music”, which was performed with the Slovenian Symphony Orchestra, celebrating the transfer of the EU presidency to France following the European Union’s declaration of year 2008 to be year of Euro-Mediterranean Dialogue.

Part of what makes Mr. Khairat’s music special is the way he combines western musical instruments. Khairat, a highly prolific composer, pianist and drummer, has his own highly distinctive and potent musical persona. Always maintaining an elevated level of diverse and musical knowledge, Omar Khairat is one of the most celebrated composers and pianists in the Middle East. His music has a special and distinctive style. His music is a pioneering effort in bridging the gap between eastern and western styles of music.