Monday, December 3, 2007

Saleh Al Kuwaiti

A treasure trove of Jewish-Iraqui music was posted to YouTube recently.

show Saleh Al Kuwaiti iraqi song in israel סאלח אל כוויתי

Here are links to some additional videos:

Here's a short bio of Saleh Al Kuwaiti, from Haaretz
"Brothers Salah and Daoud al Kuwaiti were born in Kuwait to a family of Iraqi origin. When Salah was 10 years old and his brother was eight, they received a violin and an oud from their uncle, who had returned from a business trip to India, and began studying music. Their talent was soon discovered, and they quickly became the prodigies of Kuwaiti music. Salah began to compose, Daoud excelled in playing, and the two began to perform at events hosted by Kuwaiti high society. The first song that they wrote and performed there, "I Swear I Loved Your Beauty," is still played today on radio stations in the Persian Gulf.

"The lightning success brought the family back to Iraq, where the music market was much larger," says Shlomo al Kuwaiti. "At first the brothers returned to Basra, where they performed and recorded with great success, and later they went on to Baghdad, the major musical capital of the period, and there they became real stars. In essence, as a composer, my father founded modern Iraqi music. After years of a frozen tradition, he introduced Western elements into it, and developed the new music on the basis of the traditional makamas (a traditional form of Arabic poetry). The songs he wrote were performed by the greatest Iraqi singers, including Salima Murad and Sultana Yusuf, and were played all over the Arab world and the Persian Gulf

His glorious career was cut short by the brothers' decision to immigrate to Israel during the major wave of aliyah (immigration) in the early 1950s. From the moment they left Iraq, attitudes toward them changed, as they did toward the Jews altogether. "The process of erasing them from Iraqi history was gradual," says Shlomo al Kuwaiti. "During the first years, local artists, Muslims, began to appropriate some of their songs. Slowly but surely, their names disappeared from the radio programs, although the songs themselves were still played. The process came to a climax after Saddam Hussein came to power. In 1972 he established a committee in the broadcasting authority, and one of its orders was to erase the names of the Al Kuwaiti brothers from every official publication and from the curricula in the academy of music. From then on, the songs that they wrote were labeled 'of folk origin.' Incidentally, the director of the broadcasting authority during that period was Mohammed al Sahaf, who was the Iraqi minister of information during the period of the second American invasion of Iraq, and is remembered for his grotesque television appearances."

The Kuwaiti brothers were not treated properly in Israel, either. After undergoing a difficult absorption process, they performed on the Voice of Israel radio broadcasts in Arabic, but felt they were being forcefully pushed into a marginal ghetto of Oriental music, which the establishment treated with hostility. "They had a weekly program on the Voice of Israel in Arabic, the broadcast of a live performance that was very popular both among native Iraqis in Israel and in the neighboring countries," says Shlomo al Kuwaiti, "but they lived with an unpleasant sense of humiliation. In Iraq they had left behind a fortune, and were at home in the king's palace, and here they were treated with suspicion and arrogance."

See Haaretz "From the king's palace to a 'ghetto' of Oriental music" for the full biography.

hat tip to Eva Broman, for posting the link on the Jewish Music mailing list, and to motifun07 for posting the video to YouTube, and to the Point of No Return blog, for pointing me to the Haaretz article.

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