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Drummer, composer, lyre player and producer Miguel Merino has had a unique musical journey. After studying jazz drums at the University of Miami, he moved to Egypt in early 2009, where for the next three years he learned from and collaborated with many local artists from the region.

During this period, he expanded his sonic palette by learning a variety of new hand drums and local percussion instruments, and was introduced by Sudanese musicians to the ancient east-African lyre they called tambur,  and Miguel was hooked.

In 2009 he began forming a group that would feature the lyre and the new music that he was developing with it. Soon after beginning to play the instrument, he met the wonderful eastern Sudanese Beja singer and lyre player Ahmed Said Abuamna, who he featured in the first incarnation of Otaak Band.

He recognized the strong connection between American and Sudanese music; this greatly influenced his composing and arranging style, and Otaak Band’s debut album Bejawiya (2012) was also the debut of the Sudanese-style lyre as a modern, adaptable instrument, capable of playing in a variety of musical styles. Otaak Band toured the United States twice in 2014, bringing the unique sound of the lyre to new audiences.

Otaak Band is Miguel’s vehicle for expressions of lyre music. Otaak takes the lyre far outside the traditional or folkloric setting and pushes the boundaries of this little-known instrument. In addition to the typical 5-string lyre, Miguel also plays a variety of lyres and harps with up to 25 strings, opening up him a broad range of musical possibilities.

A new album of original lyre music is due for release in 2019, and Miguel is also currently producing an album for Egyptian folkloric singer Ali el-Abady.

In addition to his music, Miguel has a great love for the Arabic language. He works as a freelance translator and interpreter, and has always been fascinated by the way language and music cooexist and interact. He holds a master's degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies from Georgetown University, where he studied modern Arabic poetry, researching extensively the more recent works of celebrated Bahraini poet Qassim Haddad.