COMPOSERS: Ahmed Muktah
LABELS: ARC Music
ALBUM TITLE: The Road to Baghdad
WORKS: The Road to Baghdad
PERFORMER: Alaa Majeed (ney), Shakar Hassan (percussion, keyboards), Hassan Falih (qanun), Waseem Faris (spike-fiddle)
CATALOGUE NO: EUCD 1937
Having settled in London after a hair-raising flight from Saddam in the 1990s, Ahmed Mukhtar is now Britain’s resident Iraqi oud-master, and with this new disc he puts into practice what he teaches his students at the School of Oriental and African Studies. It’s a blend of timeless virtuosity in the maqam modes on which Iraqi classical music is structured, plus traditional Arabic unison refrains, plus new compositions in which he’s supported by his colleagues on the ney flute, qanun zither and percussion. But each of these new works reaches back into antiquity through the form in which it’s cast.
Mukhtar’s finger-picking is ultra-delicate, and underpins a lovely melodic gift; at moments he makes his essentially monophonic instrument sound almost like a flamenco guitar. But the prevailing emotion is nostalgia for the peace which Iraq has lost, plus a celebration of its refined musical heritage. Michael Church