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World Music CD Reviews Middle East & North Africa


By Stacy Meyn
Published September 22, 2005

The Road To Baghdad: New Maqams From Iraq

Despite the nightly news indicating otherwise, there are good things that have come from Baghdad. For over a quarter century, Baghdad-born Ahmed Mukhtar has performed on the oud as well as Arabic percussion. He studied with masters Ganim Hadad and Jameel Jerjis, gradated from the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad, and did time in Arabic orchestras. Mukhtar’s specialty is the recital of the Iraqi maqam. In Arabic music, a maqam (plural: maqamat) is a set of connected notes with its nearest Western classical music equivalent being a mode (such as major or minor). The Road To Baghdad celebrates Mukhtar’s skill on an unfretted instrument deemed difficult to play. Joined by renowned Iraqi musicians, he unfailingly delivers stunning performances of maqamat, which additionally translate to “suites.” There is also the taqsim (plural: taqasim), which is essentially freestyle, and offers spirited interpretation of classic Iraqi songs. The UN recently selected Mukhtar and nearly 20 other world musicians to create a music CD to benefit terrorism victims.