Saturday, August 18, 2012

In review--Ouds of Iraq


Ahmed Mukhtar & Sattar Al-Saadi
Music from Iraq (Rhythms of Baghdad)
Arc Music (2010)

I have listened and watched oud players (an Arabic lute) from Lebanon, Turkey, and other countries, but Rhythms of Baghdad marks the first oud album by Iraqi musicians.  Here we have a duo of Ahmed Mukhtar (oud) and Sattar Al-Saadi on percussion (riqq, tar, dombak and other drums) performing sensuous modes and rhythms.  The robust opener, Souq Baghdadi features “a very old Iraqi rhythm called Gorgena,” but even listeners unfamiliar with the scales, and other architecture of traditional Iraqi music, will find this piece uplifting and full of light.

The second piece Mantasf-al-lil carries a darker message.  “It describes a scene of Iraqi refugees on the ocean in the middle of the night looking for land to seek refuge in.”  The slow tempo and melancholic melody played on the lower end of the spectrum wed to tense percussion, convey the sadness and longing of the refugees.  A traditional dance Raqsat Albedoi based on an Iraqi rhythm used by Bedouins and Arab musicians lightens up the atmosphere once again.  Mukhtar delivers a playful melody while showing his masterful oud playing.

The entire album offers a delightful listening experience and also features the various rhythms demonstrated in several drum solo tracks.  Sadly, most Americans and probably people from other countries have only heard war stories about Iraq and have missed out on rich cultural, historical, and musical exchanges.  Partake in this beautiful offering from Iraq and I’m certain your heart will open wide with wonder and compassion.

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