Various Artists

Iraqi Music

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Iraqi Music Review

by Adam Greenberg

This is an album of Iraqi traditional music recorded in Tokyo in 1981. The first half is taken up with taqsims on the ud as performed by Safwat Mohammed Ali. The playing is rather sparse in comparison to related taqsims from neighboring countries, with less elaboration on the basic concepts then usual. Within the course of the solo improvisations, Ali works in the more common Segah and Rast modes, and the rarer Kurd mode (this mode being relatively surprising given the time frame's proximity with Saddam Hussein's rise to power and hatred of the Kurds, but perhaps notable since it was performed in Japan). In the second half, the ud is joined by singer Ahmed Nima Kamel for a bit of pasta, a form of light song generally performed in a more familiar form of speech than the more majestic odes and forms. The song is heartfelt, despite being somewhat less ornamented or elaborated than contemporaneous music from nearby (in the same manner as the ud playing). It's rather less exciting than Persian classical, or Turkish, but it is perhaps an important cultural document of a music that escaped the grasp of a dictator's suppression.

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