Rahim AlHaj, virtuoso oud musician and composer, was born in Baghdad, Iraq and began playing the oud (the grandfather of all stringed instruments) at age nine. Early on, it was evident that he had a remarkable talent for playing the oud. Mr. Alhaj studied under the renowned Munir Bashir, considered by many to be the greatest oud player ever, and Salim Abdul Kareem, at the Institute of Music in Baghdad, Iraq. Mr. AlHaj won various awards at the Conservatory and graduated in 1990 with a diploma in composition. He holds a degree in Arabic Literature from Mustunsariya University in Baghdad. In 1991, after the first Gulf War, Mr. AlHaj was forced to leave Iraq due to his activism against the Saddam Hussein regime and began his life in Jordan and Syria. He moved to the US in 2000 as a political refugee and has resided in Albuquerque, NM ever since. In 2015 Rahim was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor for traditional arts in the USA.
Oud player/composer Rahim Alhaj, a native of Iraq and a naturalized American citizen, came into possession of a number of letters written by Iraqis. Basically, these letters are short stories, real stories, of what happened to Iraqi women and children, says Alhaj. Some of these letters came to him directly, some were passed on to him by others, and one story was told to him face-to-face by his nephew, the handicapped boy who fled an attack. The letters came to Alhaj during his 2014 visit to Iraqhis second since fleeing into Jordan as a refugee in 1991and he was able to meet most of the letter writers.
"My hope is to reach people, because these things have been forgotten, he says. This is real, and the world has to understand. It could happen anywhere. This record is not just about Iraq. It happened in Syria, it happened in Libya, it happened in Yemen, it could happen herethe same stuff. I'm hoping this record can reach more people, to open their eyes and hearts: Wait wait wait a minute not under my name, not again.
Alhaj originally conceived of these pieces for oud and string orchestra, but because orchestras are expensive and not always available, he revised his concept for the trio.
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