In 2000, after nine years as a political refugee in Jordan and Syria, world-renowned oud player Rahim AlHaj landed in the United States. In 18 years, the Iraqi native has released 12 albums, received two Grammy nominations, and earned the country’s highest award for traditional arts, the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship.
As an outspoken activist against the Saddam Hussein regime, AlHaj was forced to leave his native country nearly 30 years ago, but it is stories from his life in Iraq, and those of others living in the country at war, that form the basis of his project Letters From Iraq. Performed with traditional percussion and string quintet, the project transcends language and culture to share through music the realities of life at war. The songs are thoughtful and emotional, with AlHaj’s oud the storyteller, the string quintet setting the scene, and the traditional percussion adding the pulse of life to the music.
AlHaj, joined by the Kontras Quartet, bassist Christian Dillingham, and percussionist Issa Malluf, brings Letters From Iraq to the Logan Center for the Arts on Sunday, May 5 at 3 pm.
At 2pm before the concert, AlHaj discusses his life and music in conversation with Professor Phil Bohlman, and afterward he joins the audience for a reception in the Logan Center lobby.
Presented in partnership with the UChicago Center for Middle Eastern Studies.
Letters from Iraq