Friday, September 01, 2006
Baghdad to New Mexico: the journey of world musician Rahim Al Haj
Music is like a clock, it moves around in a circle, declares Rahim Al Haj, an innovative musician whose own life has been formed by cycles of music. He has travelled in his person and in his music from his homeland of Iraq into exile and then back home again as a true messenger of hope. A Baghdad native and a serious student of the classical and folk music of his native Iraq, he was imprisoned twice by the regime of Saddam Hussein, in part for refusing to compose musical tributes to that regime's military adventures during the 1980s. His life came under threat by the Saddam regime at the time of the First Gulf War. Rahim eventually made his way to New Mexico in 2000, adjusting to a very different culture, and re-establishing himself musicically. His work is marked by a thematic dedication to principles of peace and reconciliation in the form of wordless musical "poems" and by formal innovation on the ancient styles of the Iraqi maqam. Bill Nevins talks with this composer and musician of true world music in RootsWorld.