A powerful musical meditation on consequences in a post-war reality with Iraqi-American virtuoso/composer, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings artist Rahim AlHaj—traveling the world to “give voice to the voiceless.”
Oud player Rahim Alhaj, a native of Iraq and a naturalized American citizen, came into possession of a number of letters written by Iraqis who described such events, experienced during the American occupation and the subsequent hideous sectarian violence.
“Basically, these letters are short stories, real stories, of what happened to Iraqi women and children,” says Alhaj. Some of these letters came to him directly, some were passed on to him by others, and one story was told to him face-to-face by his nephew, the handicapped boy who fled an attack.
The letters came to Alhaj during his 2014 visit to Iraq—his second since fleeing into Jordan as a refugee in 1991—and he was able to meet most of the letter writers. “My hope is to reach people, because these things have been forgotten,” he says. “This is real, and the world has to understand. It could happen anywhere. This record is not just about Iraq. It happened in Syria, it happened in Libya, it happened in Yemen, it could happen here—the same stuff. I’m hoping this record can reach more people, to open their eyes and hearts: ‘Wait wait wait a minute—not under my name, not again.’ ”
Alhaj originally conceived of these pieces for oud and string orchestra, but because orchestras are expensive and not always available, he revised his concept for the trio.
“Music is Good. I feel lucky to have heard Rahim Alhaj. His music is beautiful, mysterious, and powerful. I’ve never heard anything like it. He has his own voice–his own sound. As the world becomes more and more complicated, confusing, and frightening, there is one thing I am certain of–Music is good. Music can bring people together. Music has power. Music heals. What Rahim is doing is important. I hope many people will have the chance to hear his new album, Home Again, made up of his own very personal compositions. Listen. He’s an inspiration. Music is good.” —Bill Frisell
“I feel privileged to have met Rahim AlHaj here in New Mexico, and to have been introduced to his extraordinary oud music. I am deeply moved by his artistry and his passion. He shares one of the great gifts of his culture with us all, and I am reminded in the most beautiful way possible of the essential connections between all peoples everywhere when compassion and art and our hearts meet. Rahim’s music touches me profoundly, and I believe that it goes a long way to soften the differences and anger in the world, and to offer all of us hope.” —Ali MacGraw, Actress & social activist
“The Iraqi oud player Rahim Alhaj is a poet. His CD, The Second Baghdad, displays his strong lyrical gifts, sharp sense of rhythm, and capacity for intense, often poignant, emotional expression. He is a storyteller in music, his songs are like tales that speak directly to the heart. He is fluent and subtle master of oud, a beguiling instrument with ancient roots. In his hands it creates an intimate art that speaks vividly, touching regions words cannot reach. it also dissolves distance as AlHaj makes his homeland and its peoples come alive and reminds of our common humanity.” —Joanne Sheehy Hoover, Music critic, Albuquerque Journal