Saturday, March 24, 2007

Songs From Iraq By Saadoun Al-Bayati


A few weeks ago, I received a nice package from a dear Iraqi friend. Among the Iraqi CDs I received from my friend, a CD by Saadoun Al-Bayati caught my attention.

I don't know Saadoun Al-Bayati. But, I know his wife. Mrs. Al-Bayati has been a loyal reader of mine and other Iraqi blogs. I sincerely appreciate her encouragement to me during the good and bad times. This post is in appreciation for her support over the last four years.

Mrs. Al-Bayati was kind enough to share the story of the CD with us. She wrote in an e-mail:

When Saadoun originally recorded these selections many years ago, there were almost no Iraqi musicians in the U.S.; and Middle Eastern musicians did not quite master the pulse of Iraqi rhythms. Therefore, Saadoun had to record sound-on-sound; i.e., he is on every track.

The album popularized Iraqi music among dancers, musicians from other Middle Eastern countries, and many Americans. It was out of print until 2003, when our children, and I decided to release it on a CD...

Various documentary productions have used cuts from the CD — some with permission (Iraq for Sale) and others without permission or citation.

I asked Mrs. Al-Bayati for Saadoun's advice to the Iraqi-expat artists. She replied back:

I will have to talk to Saadoun (who is coming home from New Mexico tomorrow) about his advice to Iraqi expat artists. But off the top of my head, I think he will say, “keep your day job,” “hone your musicality, your understanding of the stage and performance, or other aspects of your specific discipline,” and “bounce back from all difficulties to rise higher and higher.”

Saadoun's success as an expat artist is mainly artistic. His economic success is quite apart. There was a time when artists in the U.S. were able to support themselves through the arts. During the mid-1970's, however, America went through a period of economic re-structuring. From that point on, only a select few art professionals could rely on patronage from the very wealthy (few Middle Easterners among them), while the majority had to make their artistic endeavors more of a hobby, while earning a living in other fields in order to support their artist output.

I hope Saadoun continues to shine through his songs, which bring light to the Iraqi art.

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