It does not often happen to cross paths with an extraordinary musical talent. One can only feel small and intimidated when hearing about the multiple talents of Lebanese musician and composer Peter Nehme (53). He is a modern-day musical genius who could be compared with this world's greatest musical composers but is the personification of humbleness and modesty.
By Arthur Blok
Lebanese-American writer, poet, and artist Kahlil Gibran once wrote When God created man; He gave him music as a language different from all other languages. These words inspire Peter Nehme from the beautiful Lebanese village of Baakline until today.
“Music is a universal language. It is a means to communicate; it makes people happy, improves health, and helps process grief, " Nehme said. “It is a tool for communication. Not only for human beings but also for animals and plants. They all react to it in their specific way.”
Nehme added that when listening to music, people forget their differences: “When I play a melody, some people cry, and others laugh. There is something magical about music; it does something different to every one of us.”
The musical knowledge of Nehme - son of a Lebanese garage owner - at a very young age is remarkable. Everything he could find in his father’s workshop was used to play music.
When he was just two years old, his parents discovered his talent. He could immediately repeat every tune, melody, or classical play he heard. No matter if it was played on piano, flute, or guitar. He was able to reproduce it.
At three, he was the youngest ever registered student at the Lebanese Conservatorium. At the age of five, he completed all theoretical studies at the conservatorium, and at seven, he studied various instruments simultaneously.
At 14, he became the Lebanese Conservatorium's youngest teacher in history. Nehme: “Music is in my heart, in my soul. Everything I hear around me is a melody. I do not know how else to describe it. I hear a sound if I see this table in front of us with these cups.”
Despite his promising developments at a young age and playing with Lebanon’s greatest artists, Nehme was forced to leave the country before he reached 18. Lebanon was at war (1975-1990) with itself: over 150.000 people were killed, tens of thousands wounded, and hundreds of thousands displaced. There was nothing left for a young, talented musician.
Nehme: “There was only sadness and depression. When the bombs were falling around me, I played music. That was the only way I could survive. I knew that playing music made me immune to all the misery and pain.”
The Lebanese Mozart now plays approximately 46 different instruments. He can compose all sorts of music styles and make his own instruments, from percussion to guitars. Nehme uses his (self-made) tools as a music therapist to heal traumatized people. In 2011 he launched Peter Music & More; a company that manufactures and restores all kinds of instruments under well-known brand Peter's.
Nehme: “I hand-make instruments from zero for my therapy sessions. I use all kinds of materials. Whatever you throw away, I can use it to build something. It could be everything used: wood, cans, or bottles. Everything has its specific sound."
He worked in workshops all over Europe to master specific manufacturing techniques. Life was not always easy. Nehme: “I did not have any money when I left Lebanon during the war, so I played wherever I could to make enough money to pay my living expenses. Being a musician is beautiful, but it can be harsh sometimes.”
Nehme had a bit of bad luck in his life. Twelve years ago, his house in Lebanon burned to the ground. He lost everything he had collected at that moment: his compositions, instruments, and pictures:
Nehme: “Everything I saved over the years that I wanted to display in a small museum was gone. That dream literary went up in smoke. My dream now is to have a museum for all the instruments that I manufactured.”
Peter Nehme is very active on social media. A selection of his diverse compositions and performances can be found on his YouTube channel and his personal Instagram account. It includes the latest news of his performances around the world. He also hosts Green Concerto and Peter Nehme the Artist.