Music of Iraq

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Iraq is known primarily for an instrument called the oud (similar to a lute) and a rebab (similar to a fiddle); its stars include Ahmed Mukhtar and the Assyrian Munir Bashir. Until the fall of Saddam Hussein, the most popular radio station was the Voice of Youth. It played a mix of western rock, hip hop and pop music, all of which had to be imported via Jordan due to international economic sanctions. The Corrs and Westlife are especially popular. Iraq has also produced a major pan-Arab pop star-in-exile in Kazem al Saher, whose songs include "Ladghat E-Hayya", which was banned for its racy lyrical content.

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[edit] Modern era

Early in the 20th century, many of the most prominent musicians in Iraq were mixture of Muslim and non-Muslim Arab. These included all the instrumentalists who attended the famous 1932 Arabic music congress in Cairo, while the Muslim vocalist Mohammed Al-Quebbantchi also attended. Later still, in 1936, Iraq Radio was established with an ensemble made up of entirely of Jews, with the exception of the percussion player. The nightclubs of Baghdad also featured almost entirely of Jewish musicians. At these nightclubs, ensembles consisted of oud, qanun and two percussionists, while the same format with a ney and cello were used on the radio.

One of the reasons for the predominance of Jewish instrumentalists in early 20th century Iraqi music was a prominent school for blind Jewish children, which was founded in the late 1920s. Many of the students became musicians, eventually forming the Arabic Music Ensemble Qol Yisraeli (Israel Radio).

Singers, on the other hand, were Muslim, Jewish and Christian. The most famous singer was perhaps the Jew Salima Pasha (later Salima Murad). Pasha's respect and adoration was unusual at the time, since public performance by women was considered shameful and most female singers were recruited from brothels.

For much of the 20th century, Egypt has been the center for Arab popular music, with only a few stars from other countries finding international success. The most famous early composer from Iraq was Ezra Aharon, an oud player. In the early 1920s, Salima Pasha became a renowned singer, while the most promnent instrumentalist was Dawud el-Kuwaiti. Duwad and his brother Salih formed the official ensemble for the Iraqi radio station and were responsible for introducing the cello and ney into the traditional ensemble.

Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq and fall of Saddam Hussein, some militant extremists have been attacking musicians, especially those in the port city of Basra, where Shia extremists are believed to be responsible [1]. Basra's sea shanties are well-known throughout Iraq. Music shops in the Summar district have been the target of grenade bombings. Religious leaders have closed some of the concert halls and clubs in the shop.

[edit] Maqam

Across the Arab world, maqam refers to specific tone scales, whereas in Iraq, it can also refer to a specific kind of improvised performance based on rules. There are a number of different maqams, each with their own mood and characteristics. There are between fifty and seventy maqams, many of which also have sub-styles and variants. There are only twenty primary maqams.

Iraqi maqam, and music in general, is closely related to Syrian music, but is less melodious and more melismatic. Other characteristics of Iraqi music include a slow tempo, rhythmically free ornamentation or melodic lines, and predominantly minor modes. Instruments include qanun, riqq, santur, darbuka, naqqara, ney, djose and oud. Baghdad's tchalgi ensembes typically include the djoze and ney, and may also utilize an oud.

Maqam texts are often derived from classical Arabic poetry, such as by Mohammad Mehdi Al-Jawahiri, al-Mutanabbi and Abu Nuwas, or Persian poets like Hafez and Omar Khayyám. Some performers used traditional sources translated into the dialect of Baghdad, and still others use Arabic, Turkish, Armenian, Hebrew, Turkmen, Aramaic or Persian language lyrics.

[edit] History

The roots of modern Iraqi maqam can be traced as far back as the Abbassid era, when a large empire was controlled from Baghdad. The modern form, however, descends directly from the 19th century Turkmen composer Rahmat Allah Shiltegh (1798-1872).

The pesteh, a kind of light song which concludes a maqam performance, has been popularized in the later 20th century, growing more prominent along with the rise of recorded music and broadcast radio. Among the most popular pesteh performers are the husband and wife Selima Murad and Nazim Al-Ghazali.

The most popular modern singers of maqam are Rachid Al-Qundarchi (1887-1945), Youssouf Omar (1918-1987), Nazem Al-Ghazali (1920-1963), Salim Shibbeth (born 1908), Hassan Chewke (1912-1962), Najim Al-Sheikhli (1893-1938), Mohammed Al-Qubanchi (1900-1989) and Farida Mohammed Ali (1963- ).

Middle Eastern music

Algeria - Bahrain - Egypt - Iran - Iraq - Israel - Jordan - Kuwait - Lebanon - Libya - Morocco - Oman
Palestine - Qatar - Saudi Arabia - Sudan - Syria - Tunisia - Turkey - UAE - Yemen
Andalusian - Arabic - Assyrian - Berber - Islamic - Kurdish - Persian

[edit] References

  • Badley, Bill and Zein al Jundi. "Europe Meets Asia". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp 391-395. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0

Music of Iraq

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