KEXP is one of my favorite YouTube channel, originally it’s a radio station based in Seattle, USA. But they record their programs and upload it on YouTube so that listeners from around the world can access them.
In this video KEXP invites Rahim AlHaj who is an Iraqi-American oud player and music composer. He was forced to leave Iraq in 1991 due to his political views against Saddam regime. Rahim was a student of famous musician Munir Bashir who is also recognized as the greatest oud player by many. He has performed all over the world with his mentor and also with his string quintet projects. This extraordinary musician had Grammy nomination for ‘Traditional World Music’ recording category in 2010 when he collaborated with Indian Sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan.
Rahim AlHaj’s latest music project ‘Letters from Iraq’ is about the pain, loss, love, hope and hardship faced by the people of Iraq post-war with United States and oppressions by Saddam Hussein’s regime. Music is composed by Rahim and his string quintet with percussions. Music is based on actual letters written by the Iraqi people about the state of their war torn country. Letter 1 – Eastern Love and Letter 4 – The Last Time We Will Fly Birds are two of my favorites from this album but there’s not a single song from this album which isn’t a masterpiece. Each letter has slightly different sentiment and Rahim exquisitely converts these eight real letters into emotion filled tracks. Through these sensational songs he forms an aura of tragedies faced by the people of Iraq while America “invaded” their country.
Imagine coming home from work and finding out that the roof of your house is blown up or the school that your son studies in is converted into an army base or your home town destroyed because of fight between immoral dictator and insensitive invader. Imagine always living in fear, fear for your life and the life of your loved ones. In these kind of circumstances even a little moment of normalcy in life seems like a rare and precious gift and that’s what this album is about. ‘Letters from Iraq’ takes you on a tear jerking ride through these kind of events with exceptional music and at the end gives the message of hope and peace.
Recently I came across to another extraordinary performance by Rahim AlHaj and his group. Here’s the link, though it is not related with ‘Letters of Iraq’, I’m sure you’ll love it.