Music of Iraq

Last updated

The music of Iraq or Iraqi music, (Arabic : موسيقى عراقية), also known as the Music of Mesopotamia encompasses the music of a number of ethnic groups and musical genres. Ethnically, it includes Arabic music, Assyrian, Kurdish and the music of Turkmen, among others. Apart from the traditional music of these peoples, Iraqi music includes contemporary music styles such as pop, rock, soul and urban contemporary.

Contents

Iraq is recognized mainly for three instruments, the Oud, Iraqi Santur and Joza. The most renowned Oudists are Ahmed Mukhtar, Naseer Shamma, Rahim AlHaj, Sahar Taha and Munir Bashir.

Classical Iraqi Music

Musical theater group in Baghdad, 1920s. ComedianpartyBaghdad.jpg
Musical theater group in Baghdad, 1920s.

Iraqi classical music necessitates some discussion of the social environment, as well as references to the poetry. Poetry is always rendered clearly. Poetry is the art of the Iraqis, and sung poetry is the finest of all. In Baghdad from 760-1260, writers spurned musical notation. [1] The music is melodically modal, and moves in a stepwise motion with repeated notes. Use of the lower end of a melodic range is characteristic, as is the use of silence; one listens through the silence. Following a cadence, the singer moves up to the next range of pitches. An arch shape is discernible, and the work ends in the original mode.

Singers of the Baghdad Court were praised for their excellence in composition, their knowledge of history and songs, and their ornaments and innovations. There was support for female singers and orators, such as Arib, a skilled poet, calligrapher, lutenist, composer, and backgammon player who wrote more than one thousand songs. The common instrument (comparable in popularity to the piano or violin in the west) is the oud. Classical Iraqi music is identifiable by the genre/canon, and by how it is performed.

Historically, music would have been played for gatherings of men. With the advent of the sound recording industry, things have changed somewhat. Today one invites musicians to perform at weddings; by the first quarter of the century, concerts were being staged at concert venues.

Maqam

Traditional flute player from Iraqi folk troupe Iraqi-fluteplayer.jpg
Traditional flute player from Iraqi folk troupe

Across the Arab world, maqam refers to specific melodic modes. When a musician performs maqam performances, the performer improvises, based on rules. There are a number of different maqams, each with its own mood and characteristics. There are between fifty and seventy maqams, many of which have sub-styles. Other characteristics of Iraqi music include a slow tempo, rhythmically free ornamentation or melodic lines, and predominantly minor modes. Instruments include qanun, riq, santur, darbuka, naqareh, ney, djose and oud. Baghdad's Chalgi ensembles typically include the djoze and ney, and may also utilize an oud.

"Lil 'Ashiqi fi-l Hawa Dala'il" by Ahmed Abdul Qadir al-Musili (1877-1941).

Maqama texts are often derived from classical Arabic poetry, such as by Muhammad Mahdi 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.

History

The roots of modern Iraqi maqam can be traced as far back as the Abbassid Caliphate, when that large empire was controlled from Baghdad.

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 Salima Pasha and Nazem 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), Hamid Al Saadi (1959-) and Farida Mohammad Ali (1963- ).

Modern era

Munir Bashir, an acclaimed oud singer. MBashir.jpg
Munir Bashir, an acclaimed oud singer.
Omar Bashir, a modern day oud singer. Omar bashir.jpeg
Omar Bashir, a modern day oud singer.

For much of the 20th century, Egypt was the center for Arab popular music, with only a few stars from other countries finding international success. Singers were Muslims, Jews and Christians.

Iraqi instrumentalists attended the famous 1932 Arabic music congress in Cairo, which the Muslim vocalist Muhammed al-Qubanchi also attended. In 1936, Iraq Radio was established by two of Iraq's most prominent performers and composers, Saleh and Daoud al-Kuwaity with an ensemble, with the exception of the percussion player. The nightclubs of Baghdad also featured almost entirely Jewish musicians. At these nightclubs, ensembles consisted of oud, qanun and two percussionists while the same format with ney and cello were used on the radio. [2]

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 by the great qanunji ("qanun player") Joseph Hawthorne (Yusef Za'arur) (Hebrew : דנדהי ללוואלד-יוסף זערור Arabic : يوسف زعرور). Many of the students became musicians, eventually forming the Arabic music ensemble "Israel Radio" (Hebrew : קול ישראליQol Yisraeli ).

The most famous singer of the 1930s1940s was perhaps Salima Pasha. [2] [3] During the 1920s, two brothers began to gain prominence in the field of music in Iraq; the Kuwaiti brothers - Salih, a violin player, and Dawud, an oud player. Almost at the same time, the name of a woman singer, Salima Pasha began to achieve fame. The brothers, Salih and Dawud el-Kuwaiti began to perform and to compose new songs for Pasha. Salih became the most prominent musician in Iraq, and Pasha became the most famous singer.

Following the opening of the Iraqi Broadcast Station in 1936. Salih was asked to form the official music ensemble for the radio station. It was due to him, that two instruments, the cello and nay (flute), were introduced for the first time into the instrumental music ensemble. The respect and adoration for Pasha were unusual at the time, since public performance by women was considered shameful and most female singers were recruited from brothels. [2]

Numerous instrumentalists and singers of the middle and late twentieth century were trained at the Baghdad Conservatory.

In recent years the Iraqi school of oud players has become very prominent, with players such as Salman Shukur and Munir Bashir developing a very refined and delicate style of playing combining older Arabic elements with more recent Anatolian influences.

Pop music

Pop music in Iraq more often than not means musical motifs and lyrics dating back centuries but performed with a mix of traditional and modern instruments. Kadim Al Sahir, for example, may be nicknamed "the Elvis of the Middle East," but he sings in classical Arabic. Popular musician Ilham al-Madfai features the electric guitar and saxophone, but uses the instruments to reinterpret age-old folk songs. [4]

Until the fall of Saddam Hussein, the most popular radio station was the Voice of Youth, which used to play the popular music of Iraq to continue the culture of the country. The station also played a mix of rock, hip hop and pop music from artists as far-ranging as Eminem to R.E.M., [5] all of which had to be imported via Jordan due to international economic sanctions, and both disc jockeys and callers spoke exclusively in English. Irish bands The Corrs and Westlife were especially popular. Iraq also produced a major pan-Arab pop star in exile in Kadim Al Sahir, whose songs include Ladghat-e Hayya, which was banned by Hussein for its racy lyrical content.

Other modern Iraqi singers include Ali Al Essawi, whose song Makhtuba became huge hit in the Arab world and made him famous throughout the region. Major artists include Shatha Hassoun, Rahma Mezher, Majid al-Muhandis, Hussam Al-Rassam, Rida Al Abdullah and Iraq's very own boy band Unknown to No One, as well as Acrassicauda, Iraq's first heavy metal band. There are also ethnic Assyrian singers such as Klodia Hanna, Ashur Bet Sargis and Linda George as well as a number of Kurdish, Turkmen, Yazidi, Dom and Armenian musicians such as Seta Hagopian.

Effect of 2003 Iraq War

Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq and fall of Saddam Hussein, some musicians have come under attack by militants. 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 city.

Related Research Articles

Arabic music Music of the Arab World

Arabic music or Arab music is the music of the Arab world with all its different music styles and genres. Arabic countries have many rich and varied styles of music and also many dialects; each country and some regions have their own traditional music.

Qanun (instrument) traditional Middle Eastern stringed instrument

The qanun, kanun, ganoun or kanoon is a string instrument played either solo, or more often as part of an ensemble, in much of the Middle East, Maghreb, West Africa, Central Asia, and southeastern regions of Europe. The name derives from the Arabic word qanun, meaning "rule, law, norm, principle", which is borrowed from the ancient Greek word and musical instrument κανών (rule), which in Latin was called canon. Traditional and Classical musics executed on the qanun are based on Maqamat or Makamlar. Qanun trace its origins to a stringed Assyrian instrument from the Old Assyrian Empire in Mesopotamia, specifically from the nineteenth century BC. This instrument came inscribed on a box of elephant ivory found in the Assyrian capital Nimrud, which is about 35 km from the city of Mosul in Iraq. The instrument is a type of large zither with a thin trapezoidal soundboard that is famous for its unique melodramatic sound.

Persian traditional music

Persian traditional music or Iranian traditional music, also known as Persian classical music or Iranian classical music, refers to the classical music of Iran. It consists of characteristics developed through the country's classical, medieval, and contemporary eras.

Sephardic music is an umbrella term used to refer to the music of the Sephardic Jewish community. Sephardic Jews have a diverse repertoire the origins of which center primarily around the Mediterranean basin. In the secular tradition, material is usually sung in dialects of Judeo-Spanish, though other languages including Hebrew, Turkish, Greek, and other local languages of the Sephardic diaspora are widely used. Sephardim maintain geographically unique liturgical and para-liturgical traditions.

Music of Jordan music and musical traditions of Jordan

The traditional music of Jordan has a long history. Rural zajal songs, with improvised poetry played with a mijwiz, tablah, arghul, oud, rabab and reed pipe ensemble accompanying is popular. The transition of old cultural music into hit pop songs known worldwide Recently, Jordan has seen the rise of several prominent DJs and popstars.

Music of Syria musical culture of Syria

The music of Syria may refer to musical traditions and practices in modern-day Syria, merging the habits of people who settled in Syria throughout its history. Syria was long one of the Arab world's centers for musical innovation in the field of classical Arab music; for example, the city of Aleppo is known for its muwashshah music, which was specially conceived to accompany Andalusian muwashshah poetry.

Tunisia is a North African country with a predominantly Arabic-speaking population. The country is best known for malouf, a kind of music imported from Andalusia after the Spanish immigration in the 15th century. Though in its modern form, malouf is likely very dissimilar to any music played more than four centuries ago, it does have its roots in Spain and Portugal, and is closely related to genres with a similar history throughout North Africa, including malouf's Libyan cousin, Algerian gharnati and Moroccan ala or Andalusi. During the Ottoman era, malouf was influenced by Turkish music. However, Tunisian repertoires, styles and also instruments remain distinctive – the ʻūd tūnsī is an emblematic case. This is a close relative of the 'uds associated with Algeria and also Morocco.

Naseer Shamma Iraqi musician

Naseer Shamma is an Iraqi musician and oud player.

Al-Andalus Ensemble is an award-winning husband and wife musical duo that performs contemporary Andalusian music. The ensemble features Tarik Banzi playing oud, ney and darbuka, and Julia Banzi on flamenco guitar.

Middle Eastern music refers to different various music styles that span across the Middle East. The various nations of the region include the Arabic-speaking countries of the Middle East, the Iranian traditions of Persia, the Hebrew music of Israel and the diaspora, Armenian music, the varied traditions of Cypriot music, the music of Turkey, traditional Assyrian music, Coptic ritual music in Egypt, and the Andalusian music very much alive in the greater Middle East, all maintain their own traditions. It is widely regarded that some Middle-Eastern musical styles have influenced Central Asia, as well as Spain, and the Balkans.

Saleh (1908–1986) and Daud (1910–1976) Al-Kuwaity were Jewish musicians born in Kuwait as Saleh and Daud Ezra. Having written some of the most famous songs of all time in Arabic music, their music is to this day famous throughout the Arab world, although they are relatively unknown in Israel.

Yair Dalal Israeli musician of Iraqi-Jewish descent

Yair Dalal is an Israeli musician of Iraqi-Jewish descent.

Amir ElSaffar is an American jazz trumpeter and vocalist. His compositions combine jazz, classical, and traditional Arabic music.

Ahmed Mukhtar Arabic, أحمد مختار is an Iraqi musician who is internationally renowned for his playing of the oud. He was born in Baghdad and is a graduate of the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad.

Nazem al-Ghazali singer-songwriter

Nazem al-Ghazali was one of the most popular singers in the history of Iraq and his songs are still heard by many in the Arab world.

Farida Mohammad Ali is an Iraqi singer. She performs regularly in the Iraqi Maqam Ensemble. The ensemble was established in 1989 in Baghdad by Mohammad H.Gomar to continue of the 1973 ensemble organized by the prominent lute professor Munir Bashir. She had taught maqam singing at the Baghdad Conservatory. She left Iraq in 1997. She is married to Mohammad Gomar the Djozza instrument player and lives in the Netherlands.

Arabic maqam is the system of melodic modes used in traditional Arabic music, which is mainly melodic. The word maqam in Arabic means place, location or position. The Arabic maqam is a melody type. It is "a technique of improvisation" that defines the pitches, patterns, and development of a piece of music and which is "unique to Arabian art music". There are seventy two heptatonic tone rows or scales of maqamat. These are constructed from major, neutral, and minor seconds. Each maqam is built on a scale, and carries a tradition that defines its habitual phrases, important notes, melodic development and modulation. Both compositions and improvisations in traditional Arabic music are based on the maqam system. Maqamat can be realized with either vocal or instrumental music, and do not include a rhythmic component.

Santur hammered dulcimer of Persian/Iranic origins

The santur (Persian: سنتور‎, is a hammered dulcimer of Iranian or Mesopotamian origins.

Yusuf Za'arur was a world-renowned Iraqi-Jewish qanun player and director of Radio Orchestra of Baghdad during the 1930s.

Al-Kindi Ensemble is a Sufi musical group founded in 1983 by Julien Jâlal Eddine Weiss. Based in Aleppo, Syria, Al Kindi Ensemble is mostly known for its works on the Arab-Muslim and Sufi musical traditions.

References

  1. Classical Music in Iraq Virginia Danielson, Harvard University
  2. 1 2 3 Kojaman, Yeheskel. "Jewish Role in Iraqi Music" . Retrieved 2007-09-09.
  3. Manasseh, Sara (February 2004), "An Iraqi samai of Salim Al-Nur" (PDF), Newsletter, London: Arts and Humanities Research Board Research Centre for Cross-Cultural Music and Dance Performance (3), p. 7, archived from the original ( Scholar search ) on December 2, 2005, retrieved 2007-09-09 .
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-09-06. Retrieved 2016-02-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-09-06. Retrieved 2016-02-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

Further reading