Naseer Shamma served as a soldier during the Gulf War (1990-91). He now plans to open a new branch of the Beit Al Oud in Iraq Image Credit: Supplied

A homecoming nearly 20 years in the making has stirred mixed feelings in Naseer Shamma. On the one hand he will be returning to his native Iraq, but on the other, the destruction, chaos and pain it has endured, especially in the recent years, have caused many things to become unrecognisable.

"Even though I left [Iraq] in 1993, a part of me always yearned to return. The invasion in 2003 and its consequences were difficult for me to see, even though I am no stranger to war — I was a soldier during the Gulf War [1990-91] — but now I plan to return before the end of this year and start giving back in a more direct manner," said Shamma, the oud virtuoso whose compositions are renowned in the Middle East and beyond.

Among his plans is the establishment of a new branch of the Beit Al Oud. The original educational facility was established in 1999 in Cairo, with subsequent branches in Abu Dhabi, Algeria and Alexandria.

"I want to establish a branch in Iraq because right now the arts and culture sector in the country is practically non-existent. I was inspired to play the oud after hearing other masters when I was very young, and hopefully this will encourage others to pursue this passion," said Shamma, who has also composed for Arabic television, film and theatre.

"I will also lend my support to any artistic endeavour that is being organised in Iraq, such as exhibitions or concerts," he added.

Shamma was in Abu Dhabi recently to perform in a special concert at the Abu Dhabi Festival, with renowned musicians from Italy, Spain, Greece, Colombia and Puerto Rico. During the performance, Shamma invited seven Emirati percussionists for a special performance of Union, Tomorrow is Better, an original song inspired by the UAE's 40th National Day celebrations.

As with his other concerts, a large portion of his proceeds was given directly in support of Iraqi children. Shamma also founded Tazc.org in 1991 with the aim of helping war victims in Iraq.

"I performed during the inaugural edition and am very proud about how the festival has grown since 2004. The concert was an electrifying experience. In addition to the ensemble pieces, I also debuted new compositions inspired by recent events, including the Arab Spring, such as Away From Sadness," he said.

"Music is the most beautiful language; it can be appreciated by anyone. Music is a journey that links people from all over the world and their unique cultures and this collaboration has allowed me to do just that by combining the traditional elements of my Middle Eastern heritage with global musical influences," Shamma said.

In February he composed Baba Amro, dedicated to the innocent victims of the unrest in Syria. The piece, along with others inspired by the region's present events, was performed during the 2012 Arab League Summit, which took place in Baghdad.

The summit was held for the first time since the Arab Spring revolts began more than a year ago, and was hosted by Iraq for the first time in more than 20 years.

"It was a special concert that I organised, not only because of the summit but also because it was held in Iraq after all these years," Shamma said.

"We are at a precious crossroads right now; each country is struggling to find its place in the new future they are trying to create. And in some cases, such as those suffering in Syria, people need our help and support now more than ever before, in any way we can provide it," he added.