Date: 7:30pm EST November 8
Rahim AlHaj - Arabic Oud with String/Percussion Septet
Individual tickets are $20 (adults) and $15 (non-WC College Students / Seniors over age 65 / WC faculty & staff). WC students and youth 18 and under are free. Individual tickets can be purchased online with a credit card via EventBrite, or with cash or check at the door. Season tickets can be purchased on the Concert Series website. Inquires and ticket holds can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-778-7839 (Debbie Reed).
Virtuoso oud player and composer Rahim AlHaj, born in Baghdad, Iraq, has found in his ancient instrument, whose written history spans some 5,000 years, a unique voice that speaks passionately to contemporary listeners of every musical background. Deftly combining traditional Iraqi maqams with contemporary stylings and influences, AlHaj seeks to translate into music the suffering, joy, anxiety, and determination that he has experienced and witnessed in his lifelong struggle against injustice — as an Iraqi, a political refugee, and today as an American citizen. Communicating with a compelling immediacy that bypasses cultural obstacles, his music speaks irresistibly to the heart in a universal language of compassion.
AlHaj’s musical journey began in his second-grade classroom, where he first wrapped his arms around an oud. He exhibited such an astonishing affinity for the oud that his teacher was moved to give him the instrument. The oud quickly became his closest confidant and constant companion, sharing every waking and sleeping hour. Despite his father’s strong misgivings but with the support of his mother, AlHaj dedicated himself to music, and by the time he was thirteen, he was already making his name in Baghdad as both a musician and a composer. After high school, he applied to the Institute of Music in Baghdad to study under Munir Bashir, considered by many to be the greatest oud player of all time, and Salim Abdul Kareem. In 1982, he began a course of study that included two years of Western music, two of Arabic music, and two devoted to composition and solo performance.
At the same time, his awareness of injustice in Iraqi society under the repressive Ba’athist regime, which had embroiled the country in a devastating war of attrition with Iran, was quickened by wider reading and new acquaintances, and he soon became active in the underground revolutionary movement. Indeed, AlHaj gave that movement its anthem, setting to music a poem written by a friend. The song, titled “Why?”, gave voice to ordinary people’s dissatisfaction with the regime and was sung with seditious relish across the country. AlHaj’s political activities drew the attention of the government, which imprisoned him twice, in 1986 and 1988. Incarcerated for two years altogether, he was tortured in an unsuccessful attempt to extract information about the movement. Released from prison, he graduated from the institute in 1990 with a degree in composition, winning various honors.
Today, AlHaj continues his journey of determined optimism, seeking to bring the world to a compassionate understanding of our shared destiny and to give the oppressed a voice for justice.
For more information about Rahim Alhaj’s performance philosophy, read and listen to the NPR piece: Stories of Wartime, Transformed through Music.