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Traditional Iraqi Music

Cairo 1932 - The Maqam orchestra which was entirely Jewish that represented Iraq at the Arab Music Festival with Mohammed Al-Qebbantchi as recitalist. Left to right: Yehuda Shamash, dumbuk (drum); Khadhouri Shamma, daff (tambourine); Yousef Za'arur Junior, qanun (plucked zither); Ezra Haron, ud (lute); Mohammed Al-Qebbantchi; Saleh Shemmail; kamana-josa (made of coconut shell); Yousef Hoogi Patao, santur (struck dulcimer).

Ezra Haron was included in the delegation only because he was entrusted by Prime Minister Noori al-Said to supervise the unfamiliar Western dress of the players.

Hoogi Patao was the top Santur player of Chalghi Baghdad, but because of his old age, he could not travel to Cairo and his son Yousef went in his place. The BBC Arabic programme has a complete set of records of all the music played by the Iraqi orchestra at the Cairo Conference as well as records of music played by other delegations. Hoogi Patao died in 1933.

The above photograph is from the archives of the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Centre at Or-Yehuda, now containing over 6,000 historic photographs, and was personally very kindly brought to us by Mr Mordechai Ben Porat, founder and President of the Centre. A second floor measuring 850 square metres has just been roofed and nearing completion.

1938 - The picture on the right shows the band of Baghdad Broadcasting House (5 Jews and one Moslem) with the well-known recitalist Mohammed Al- Qebbantchi.

Right to left: sitting: Ibrahim Taqu (cello); Daoud al-Kuwaiti (lute); Mohammed al-Qebbantchi; Yousef Za'arour (zither); Husain Abdallah (percussion). Standing: Yacoob Murad al-Emari (flute); Saleh al-Kuwaiti (violin).





Th picture on the left taken at a musical party given in 1933 by Yousef Za'arour senior in honour of the great Egyptian singer Um Kalthum, during her visit to Baghdad.

Right to left: sitting: Heskel Muallem (singer); Hoogi Pataw (zither-with hammers); Nahom Yona (violin); Yousef Horesh (recitalist); Salman Moshi (recitalist). Standing: Yousef Za'arour and Um Kalthum.

Jewish musicians played a prominent part in the development and perfection of traditional Iraqi Maqam. In 1932 a Jewish band headed by Hoogi Pataw, with Mohammed Al-Qebbantchi, recitalist, represented Iraq at the Cairo music Festival of 1932. They won the first prize which was presented to them by King Fuad of Egypt.


An Iraqi band of traditional Chalghi has recently been touring Britain and some other European countries giving performances of well-known Maqams and popular songs.

In London, this band appeared at the Kensington Town Hall to a packed audience of 800 enthusiastic listeners and also at various other venues.

As the leading recitalist of the Iraqi Maqam, Hamid Al-Saadi perpetuates the centuries old singing.

Hamid mastered the many different Maqams at an early age, enlarging on some of them and enhancing their appeal by his sensitive innovation. He was greatly praised by the great "masters" before they passed away. The late Mohammed Al-Qebbantchi, who was considered the greatest of all the recitalists, and teacher and mentor, Yousif Omar, considered him the ideal link in the chain to pass on the tradition to the next generation of vocalists. He is now an established authority in this art. Hamid has lectured for seven years at the Maqam Academy in Baghdad and now performs at local and international festivals.



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