Ilham al-Madfai mentors young Iraqi musicians

[File] Ilham thinks new Iraqi artists should not forget about their roots.

[File] Ilham thinks new Iraqi artists should not forget about their roots.

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Iraqi musician Ilham al-Madfai is credited with being the first artist to combine modern musical instruments with the Arabic genre. He formed his first band in the 1960s, and since then has traveled the world performing his music. He is currently working with Iraqi musicians overseas in developing their talent on the BBC's new show "World Routes Academy."

On his return from Copenhagen, Mawtani spoke to Ilham in Amman, Jordan, about his upcoming work and the current state of Iraqi music.

Mawtani: Why did you visit Copenhagen?

Ilham al-Madfai: I was part of a BBC team that spent a considerable time working on music shows, such as "World Music" and "World Routes." An academy was established for migrant Iraqi youth currently residing in the UK, Europe and the United States. These young people used to play in just the Western genre, but have now gone back to their Iraqi roots and are re-discovering their indigenous culture, language and folklore songs. I was selected to help these young people, discover their talents and bring them to the world stage. So the purpose of my visit to Copenhagen with the BBC team was to announce the idea of the music academy at the World Music Festival.

Mawtani: Has the academy been launched? And what are its goals?

Al-Madfai: The academy has been launched, actually. The show will air February 10th from London. We will be sending Iraqi young people to Lebanon, Syria and Istanbul so they will get to know more about Arab music and contribute to the Arab music scene.

Mawtani: Tell us about your latest album "Dishdasha."

Al-Madfai: The album includes eleven traditional songs and was released last March. It was produced by the now Dubai-based EMA, after their Beirut office closed down. The release of the album was delayed because of a change in management. The new contract includes producing another new album.

Mawtani: Does "Dishdasha" include songs in foreign languages?

Al-Madfai: Yes, the album includes a song in Italian and another in English. In that particular album, I sought to create a nice blend between traditional and foreign music.

Mawtani: Previously you dedicated a song in Erbil called "Peace to Iraq from Ilham." Now that you have a very busy agenda, where does Iraq fit in your plans?

Al-Madfai: It is an honor for me, as an Iraqi artist, to sing for peace in my homeland, Iraq, despite what all the critics say. Iraq is very much alive in my heart, notwithstanding the criticism leveled against my music, which has become popular.

Mawtani: What do you make of that criticism?

Al-Madfai: This is not what I want to talk about. I want to point out the richness of our original and traditional music. No one is making new contributions in that direction, when we badly need to preserve our musical heritage. This begs the question: how many Iraqi artists give due attention to the music and lyrics of Iraqi music? Artistic freedom is not just about dancing. It is about preserving the kind of music that mirrors our culture.

Mawtani: Aside from the show on the BBC, how can you offer to help the new generation of Iraqi artists?

Al-Madfai: I am not the one who should be extending help. Rather, new Iraqi singers should be expected to preserve Arab music and pay special attention to our musical heritage on their own. Iraqi singers need to dig up Iraqi songs and work on developing them.

Mawtani: Lastly, tell us about your work with Mario Reyes of the Gypsy Kings.

Al-Madfai: I was selected because I am from Iraq and because my singing style is similar to the band's style. They were looking for a voice from Iraq, and chose me. I sang "Habibi leh," which they included on their album.

PHOTO: [File] Ilham thinks new Iraqi artists should not forget about their roots.

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    عبد الله العامري

    2010-2-28

    It is not right to compare Alham Almadafaie to Kadhem Saher. Alsaher as an artist has a great musical and singing talent. His talent has transformed him from a poor person into one of the world's most famous people. He has achieved great success, far greater than the success of any Iraqi or Arab singers. He is well known in all the Arab countries and around the world. He is really the ambassador of Arabic songs to the world. He has given concerts in almost every country in the world: Europe, America and the Arab world. He sings poems, to which he personally composes the music himself. In addition to his talent, having a great singing voice, he composes great music, which is very well liked. He sings different kinds of songs, and he is excellent in his performance of different colors and music. Today, Kazem Saher is famous and has a large number of audiences in every country in the world. He is not only famous in Iraq; he has traveled outside Iraq and recorded his best songs outside Iraq. Because of the bad behavior to which he had been exposed by the eldest son of the criminal Saddam Hussein, Uday, who was treating famous artists and women as if they were his servants, Alsaher decided to settle abroad in order to continue his career. He actually enjoyed continued successes, one after another, and became a huge star of Arab songs. He sang with several Arab and foreign stars. He also started composing music for a number of pioneer singers, who were from the golden generation of Arab singers. Despite the distance and alienation he experienced during his time of living abroad, his love for Iraq has never changed. He actually composed many songs for Iraq at every stage ** comment truncated due to length.

  • smbteka

    2010-2-13

    Can we be for each other? Can I love you and you love me and we be lovers, despite those who would like to diminish us, and can we have roses and birds and a river running through our land? Can we love each other without fear or suspicion in each other? Can we, my lady, go back on our refusal and be lovers despite everything?

  • هديل العزاوي

    2010-2-12

    To the brother commentating on Iraqi singing, I say to you, brother, that when we want to discuss Iraqi signing, we are discussing an art that is original and very old, in terms of its lyrics and tunes; the Iraqi song, and for many long years, were and remain at the peak of Arabic singing and has a wonderful presence which has given Arabic singing a greater artistic legacy and it is Iraqi entertainers, composers, and poets whom we are grateful to for their contribution in terms of the most wonderful works which took Iraqi singing to the peak, for there are bright entertainers inside and outside the country who became prominent and they were, and remain, akin to schools that are imitated in the world of the Arabic song. Among the important voices of the Iraqi song’s old era is its ambassador, the artist Nathum al-Ghazali who performed the most wonderful songs which remain, to this day, in the repertoire of the most famous entertainers in the Arab world; that wonderful artist who sang the most beautiful songs to many generations, and others in that period who became prominent as well due to their pure and emotional singing, and among them is Zuhoor Hussein, Maida Nazhat, and in terms of rural singing, the entertainer Dakhil Hassan. And the Iraqi song continued to contribute wonderful tunes and there always was, in every period of time, a group of wonderful entertainers, such as Farida, Yas Khudhur, Hussein Nima, and others, but in a brief and short time, the Iraqi song experienced some small amount of stagnation and this was due to the war in the eighties, despite the presence of wonderful voices and beautiful songs, but they did not make their way abroad but remained entertaining in their place inside the country, and **comment truncated due to length

  • رضامحمد حسن

    2010-2-10

    Yes, very creative, and thank you to all Iraqi artists who put effort for art and who present it to the Iraqi people, many thanks.

  • باحث موسيقي

    2010-2-6

    Ilham al-Madfai is an Iraqi singer and guitar player who mixes Western guitar playing and Iraqi folk songs. Indeed, Ilham al-Madfai has a unique entertaining singing style and method, especially given that he found a new way of singing and was able to mix a style that was as far away as possible from a Western instrument and he brought it into the tunes of the beautiful Iraqi songs. For in the fifties of the 20th Century he was studying at the Najeeb Pasha elementary school in al-Athamiya and loved music and was distinguished amongst his peers in that school and in the subject of music and singing and he is from the al-Madfai family of Baghdad, which is famous, and one of his relatives was Jameel Pasha al-Madfai who was in the role of prime minister several times during the age of the monarchy. Ilham al-Madfai was born in the forties in Baghdad and began to play the guitar when he was 12 and he was one of the first to start a band in Baghdad, known by the name al-Aaseer. Afterwards, he moved to England to study engineering. Ilham played with a band there called The Baghdadi House. Ilham returned to Baghdad in 1976 and formed his musical band where he mixed Western guitar playing with the Iraqi folk song. After that, he left Iraq in 1997 and toured the world with the musical style he invented and he returned to Iraq in 1991 and established the musical band known by his name, Ilham. Ilham left Iraq in 1994, that is after four challenging years that he lived in, that is after a song became famous amongst millions of Iraqis in the Diaspora not to mention millions of Arabs, especially in Lebanon and Amman. After the big success that he achieved due to his Qeethara disk, Ilham decided to return from the United States and live in Amman, close to his fans and his listeners and lives, currently, in Amman, Jordan after obtaining the Jordanian citizenship. This is his private life and his works and when and how he started, and based on this, it becomes apart to us that the artist has a great history and that he truly is a creative artist because he was able to connect the Western guitar instrument with Iraqi folk songs in his special way, and because of this, he had a large fan bases who loved him and his unique and very calm singing style which helps you to relax when you listen to the purity of his voice and tunes and his guitar playing and he makes you enter into a dream world. He was also able to eternalise Iraqi folk songs with his beautiful voice and he has many songs, the most famous of which and which has many fans who care for it and through which he won their hearts and which they listen to until today and is, for example, ‘I have nothing to do with the market,’ and the song, ‘blonde with a beauty spot,’ which is wonderful and the song, ‘guest we have for a wedding,’ and other beautiful and unique songs. Indeed you find he has simplicity in his lyrics and wonderful delivery and beautiful musical playing in the songs I mentioned, the most famous of which, or part of it, because he does not have many beautiful songs, and such a wonderful artists who was able to mix two words or two civilisations and bring their musical instrument with others in a harmonious fashion that can almost be one through the method of his playing, we must look after him and return him to Iraq and provide him with a good living that suits him so that we can make him think of returning to the nation, considering he is a national treasure and one of the very famous people, on the level of the Arab world, and the impact he has on the Iraqi public that likes and loves him. We must also mention that he is the only one who has this style and no one else, and all the one who tried this style failed for he is the only one who knows its secret, given he is an artist with a great vision and a perfect and educated artist, and have no one today in this area except him, and he is considered the one who established this style of playing and singing and the method of performance. We must take advantage of him and return him to Iraq and make him a teacher in the musical departments so he may benefit students who care to study music and give them advice and direction and education so he can place them on the correct path and teach them his wonderful method and style.

  • محمد مرزوق

    2010-2-5

    Iraqi art has had stages and one of the best stages was the golden generation which performed Iraqi songs in a real waym they are a combination of males and female singers who gave art its most beautiful songs, in terms of lyrics and music, and they were perfect and entertaining songs that brought joy to the people who listened to them and made them feel the meaning of realness in singing. But now and with the modernisation that is taking place in all things, the new era, the era of fast songs and strange and unintelligible lyrics or terms that cannot be compared to the lyrics of the songs and the change in the method of composition and the nature of the music that exists on the stage now, are entirely different to the old Iraqi songs, for old Iraqi singing had several types and stages, amongst which was the known Iraqi Maqam which Iraqis are known for and in performing its particular colour, particular to Iraqis only and also the rural southern stage, which was also considered specific to Iraqis only in terms of its performance and we also have another type, which is considered a type very specific to Iraqis which is the Mawwal which some people enjoy and love. Iraqi colours of singing are distinctive and those who listen to them were not only from Iraq but from all the Arab countries, they used to love listening to the different Iraqi signing types but today, all these things are different and Iraqi art has drifted away with respect to singing these fast songs that have no meaning and no entertainment value and that is why we find many who oppose this prevalent method of singing and try to stop the expansion of this type of singing because of their direct effect on the young which causes the loss of the history of the Iraqi song and its originality. It is necessary for the young to become aware and leave these failed songs and to listen to the beautiful Iraqi songs and Maqams. Of the most prominent singers who sang the original and old Iraqi songs was Nathum al-Ghazali and Hthairi Abu-Aziz and others. The evidence with respect to the originality of these songs and their impressions upon the mind and its impact on the listener is that they remain to this day, while the new and modern song with its fast beat may be liked by some and you can see that he is very involved in memorising it and listening to it many times but it quickly disappears and goes away, you hear it for two days or a little more and after that you forget it and you do not remember any of it or even the singer who sang it because it is not impactful, and from this we see the difference between the original and modern Iraqi songs becoming apparent to us, that is, the songs that have the greatest impact and longevity and that remain heard by generations across the years. I believe, and as some believe, according to my knowledge, that these original old Iraqi songs were and remain the peak of creation.

  • علي

    2010-1-31

    Yes, If Allah wills.

  • علي

    2010-1-31

    Yes, God willing