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Michigan Heritage Awards

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Photo of Nadim Dlaikan making a nay
Photo by Al Kamuda

Photo of Nadim Dlaikan's nays
Photo by Al Kamuda

Photo of Nadim Dlaikan playing a nay with three other musicians
Photo by Marsha MacDowell

Photo of Nadim Dlaikan looking at bamboo

Nadim Dlaikan
1994 awardee, Southgate (Wayne County), Arab-American musician and nay maker

In the dynamic musical community of Arab Detroit, Nadim Dlaikan is highly respected as a talented and conservative defender of traditional Arab musical genres. His primary instrument, the nay (a single reed wind instrument) is difficult to master, but Nadim is a virtuoso on it.

When growing up in Lebanon, Nadim became interested in the nay at an early age when his brother brought one home. His family discouraged him from playing it, but Nadim persisted and before long made his own nay and taught himself to play it. His family eventually acknowledged his talent, and Nadim attended the Lebanese Conservatory to improve and strengthen his musical education under the tutelage of highly acclaimed musicians. When he graduated from high school and the conservatory, he moved from his village, Aley, to Beirut where he performed as a professional musician and frequently accompanied Lebanon's best folk music and dance troupes throughout the Middle East.

In 1970 at the age of 30, Nadim immigrated to the United States and worked several years as a musician in New York City and around the country. He settled in Detroit, which has the largest and highest concentration of Lebanese in the United States. After years of work, Nadim realized his dream when he quit his job, and today devotes himself completely to his music. His hobby is now his livelihood, and he plays throughout the United States as well as locally. Nadim explained, "I love the nay. It is a sensitive instrument, and I have to be sensitive to it, to play with feeling." (1)

In addition to making music, Nadim is the only nay maker in the United States. He grows bamboo in his back yard and makes a variety of Arab flutes. Musicians from around the United States order his instruments and send theirs to him for fine-tuning and repair.

Nadim is committed to teaching people about Arab and Middle Eastern music and reaching new audiences. He also explores ways in which Arab folk music can blend with world music and encourages local Arab musicians to use music to teach others about their culture and to expand their vision of themselves as musicians. He often is in a position of leadership, bringing together musicians for a performance.

Nadim Dlaikan also received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2002.

(1) Dlaikan, Nadim. Personal communication with Yvonne Lockwood. 1993.

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