Artist Profiles: Mad Sheer Khan

Mad Sheer Khan
Mad Sheer Khan

Mad Sheer Khan was born Mahamad Hadi, in Algiers (Algeria) in 1955, of mixed Persian and Arabic origin. He studied in France, where he now lives. His experience of being steeped in three different cultures has enabled him to develop fruitful relations between these varied influences. His oriental roots are apparent everywhere in the rhythms, colors, scales and sources of inspiration of his music.

His aim is to go beyond the worn-out image of the ‘exotic East’, and in order to achieve this he constantly seeks points of contact between a western-inspired oriental culture and its counterpart, an oriental-inspired western culture. Mad Sheer Khan strives to give his music a wide range by juxtaposing ideas from both classical and folk music, developing them in compositions in which classically urban and rural styles exist side by side. His sound is characterized by the powerful blow of the dilruba, an Indian violin that he performs in an unique style.

Mad Sheer Khan formed his first group in 1975. In 1981, he formed a duo and adopted an image that was quite rare for the time: he spent the 1980s swathed in a turban, deliberately going against what was then the normal practice. His unconventional appearance did not deter the critics, who responded enthusiastically to his playing in 1982 the well-known English magazine New Musical Express listed him among the ten best guitarists in the world. During this period Mad was in fact living in London, where he worked with Velvet Underground’s muse, Nico, on the albums Drama of Exile 1 & 2, and was acclaimed for his virtuosity.

On his return to France, still under the influence of his London experiences. Mad Sheer Khan wrote pieces with a harder edge than any he had composed before and formed the group Harem, with which he performed a mixture of electronic and acoustic music. In 1994 he went solo again, returning to a more ethnic style of acoustic music.

The album Demoncracy (2008) was a new step in Mad Sheer Khan’s pacifist development, in line with the musician rebels of the 1970s whose views he used to share. The album features a tribute to The Velvet Underground’s muse, Nico, with whom he recorded in 1981 “Orly Flight”, a hymn to illegal aliens. The other tribute is devoted to Edwin Star and his so popular “War”, transposed from former Vietnam to present Iraq.

He has appeared with many other musicians, including Nina Hagen, Michael Hutchence, Keziah Jones, Jean Louis Aubert and Sting.


Rahmann (Polydor Records)
1001 Nights (Erato-Detour 27319 /Atlantic Records, 1999)
Chai Machine (Flying Rhino)
Mahjuba (Origins)
Samarkand Hôtel (2002)
Demoncracy (2008)
Far Oued (2012)

Web Site:

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.


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