German guitarist, oud player Roman Bunka, known for collaboration with Mohamed Mounir dies at 71

Ahram Online , Ati Metwaly , Sunday 12 Jun 2022

German composer, guitarist and oud player, known to Arab audiences for his close collaboration with Mohamed Mounir and numerous other Arab musicians, passed away Sunday at age 71 due to liver cancer.

Roman Bunka
Roman Bunka in one of his performances in Germany (Photo: Roman Bunka Facebook page)


Bunka was born 2 December 1951 in Frankfurt, Germany, and throughout his career he had established himself as a pioneering experimental rock-jazz and world music performer in his home country.

He began his journey in music performing with experimental bands such as progressive rock and jazz Embryo established in the late 1960s in Munich, and Missus Beastly founded in 1968 in Herford, Germany.

Through their extensive travels in the 1970s and the 1980s, those two bands introduced Bunka to countries such as India, Afghanistan, Morocco, triggering his curiosity about the music of those regions.

The guitarist became especially attracted by the oud and the music characterised by microtonal and modal components.

Bunka began exploring the Arab music throughout the 1980s, when in Morocco he listened to the radio airing Arabic songs performed by Um Kalthoum and composed by Riad El Sunbati.

It did not take him long to come to Egypt (1982) and start studying oud. This eventually led to his meeting with Mohamed Mounir, marking his first big collaboration with musicians from the Arab region.

In one of the most recent interviews with Bunka published by the Psychedelic Mag, he recalled this experience saying: "Mohamed Mounir opened the door to my Egyptian experience, through the work with him I met so many musicians, classic, folk-musicians, street musicians and stars like Baligh Hamdy. But through my own research I met the ‘cream’ of oud players and composers from the whole Arabic world, like Ziad Rahbani, Hamza el Din, Mohamed Zine el Abdine, Charbel Rouhane, Nasseer Shama, Sayed Chraibi, Fathy Salama, Abdo Daghir, Jill Jillala, Gnauwa Musicians etc."

He has also composed music to the German film Das Holz (The Oud, 1990) directed by Fritz Baumann. The film won the Gold Hugo at the 1992 Chicago International Film Festival.

Bunka's released his compositions through several albums marking his journey between Germany and the Arab world: Dein Kopf Ist Ein Schlafendes Auto (“Your Head is Like a Sleeping Car,” 1980), Color Me Cairo (1995), among numerous others as well as compilation albums.

A number of Arab musicians expressed their sorrow about Bunka's passing on their social media. Egyptian composer Fathy Salama wrote: "Roman Bunka, guitarist and oud player passed away. My condolences. May he rest in a better place. Let us remember the good moments. Roman was a great musician and a friend."

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