Washington (DC), USA – Smithsonian Folkways Recordings has released Rahim AlHaj‘s ‘When the Soul Is Settled: Music of Iraq. AlHaj has given performances around the world, including a June 2006 concert at Washington, DC’s Kennedy Center. On the current CD, he is joined by percussionist Souhail Kaspar, an acclaimed Lebanese musician who was trained at the Conservatory of Traditional Arabic Music.
Raised in Baghdad, Iraq, AlHaj began playing the ‘ud (related to the lute) at the age of nine and gave his first solo concert at 14. He studied at the Baghdad Conservatory of Fine arts under Munir Bashir, widely considered one of the finest ‘ud players of all time. After the first Gulf War, AlHaj‘s political activities forced him to leave the country and after a stay in Jordan and Syria he emigrated to the United States in 2000 and he now resides in New Mexico.On When the Soul Is Settled: Music of Iraq, AlHaj tackles the musical form of maqam. He comments, “When your soul is settled, only then are you really inside the maqam.” Each musical piece incorporates an Improvisation followed by an instrumental rendition of a distinctive Iraqi song.