Tuning Baghdad host Regine Basha asks the question: can there be a musical citizenship? through her explorations into the musical history of the Iraqi-Jewish diaspora. Each episode features home recordings of the last generation of Iraqi Jewish musicians of Baghdad still performing today and beloved arabic songs from Egypt and other countries that intersect with the ensemble instruments and musical scale of the Maqam. Additionally, Basha shares “mystery mixtapes” from her own family archives.
Listen to episodes below from Clocktower Radio series Tuning Baghdad:
In this episode, you will hear recordings of Salim Daoud, Abraham Salman, Salima Pasha, Naim Rejwan & Iman, and other Iraqi-Jewish musicians and singers. Episode one of Tuning Baghdad was produced with Jason Stilip at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation for the 2015 exhibition If a song could be freedom at Interference Archives.
In a departure from the historical first episode of Tuning Baghdad, Tuning In, offers a social soundscape of contemporary rehearsals and practice sessions from within the Iraqi-Jewish community. As if to drop you right in the middle of a private Arabic musical gathering, layered with the textures of tuning, playing, laughing, singing, heckling, coughing, and adulating, these extended live sessions bring you closer to these intimate private settings Basha had the privilege of recording.
Life of the Party
For Life of The Party, host Regine Basha asks her father, an Uud, dumbek, and violin player and avid Arabic music fan now in his 90s, “What top five classic songs are currently a must at your party?”
In the Iraqi-Jewish community, the all-night music parties (or Charghlis) of Basha’s childhood, date back to early 20th century Baghdad and still carry on in various forms today. With this festive legacy in mind, this episode's playlist includes epic, classical love songs from Uum Kalthoum, Farid Al-Atrash, Warda, and Nazem Al Ghazali that are not only favorites among Iraqi Jews, but have been beloved for decades across the Middle East. Some of these songs can be over an hour long in their entirety, keeping the party going until breakfast!
This episode of Tuning Baghdad brings together various versions and recordings of unique songs related to ceremonial and holiday rituals specific to the Jews of Iraq, though often enjoyed and shared by all communities in Iraq. Basha plays early recordings of songs found in her father's cassette collection, such as Afaki Afaki —a litany from the groom's mother to the bride's mother (bravo to you, for the trick you have played) and the festive, Abu Henna which showers the bride and groom with blessings. Other tracks include a beautiful 16th century Aramaic song that continues to be sung at Hannukah.
This episode of Tuning Baghdad spotlights, the santoor, an ancient hammered dulcimer, dating back to Mesopotamian and Babylonian times and known for its hypnotic sounds. Basha plays Hugi Pataw, the Iraqi Jewish santoor player from the 1930s, and a curated selection of the various ‘relatives’ of the santoor from India, China, and Roma culture. Also featured is a special in-studio guest performance and discussion with Iraqi Maqam musicians, Amir Elsaffar and his sister, Dena ElSaffar of Safaafir.
Seeking the Maqam
For Seeking the Maqam, Regine Basha circles back to the origins of her research of Iraqi-Jewish musical traditions and dedicates this last episode of the Tuning Baghdad series to the only ethnomusicologist, Yeheskel Kojaman who has written on the Iraqi Maqam and the role of the Iraqi Jewish musicians in pre-1950s Baghdad. Tracks include present-day maqam musicians Hamid Al-Saadi and Amir ElSaffar as well as archival tracks by noted maqam musicians. A surprise remix track by rock musician, Dudu Tassa, grandson of an Iraqi-Jewish composer, caps off this final session.