Ilham al-Madfai, Farida Mohammad Ali
Ahead of Monday night's late night Prom, Mary Ann Kennedy introduces a programme devoted to Iraqi music, with some of the latest releases chosen by World Routes Academy Mentee, Khyam Allami, and specially recorded concert performances by Ilham al-Madfai, and the mother of Maqam, Farida Mohammad Ali.
Iraqi guitarist, singer and composer Ilham al-Madfai pioneered Arabic-world music cross-over, modernizing traditional and folkloric Arabic songs, and blending "modern" instruments with more traditional counterparts to create new arrangements of classical Arabic songs. Ilham al-Madfai has worked as mentor to Khyam Allami throughout the inaugural year of the World Routes Academy scheme.
Born in the southern Iraqi town of Karbala, Farida Mohammad Ali is unique in having mastered what is still essentially a musical genre dominated by male voices. Known affectionately as "Mother Maqam", and now living in exile in the Netherlands, Farida is one of only a handful of artists who have mastered the complex melodies, scales, scriptures and the entire philosophy behind the discipline of Maqam. She specialises in Maqam al-Baghdadi, where emphasis is placed upon a musician's ability to improvise within an established framework, and the capacity to deliver settings of ancient Sufi of sadness and exile across an immense vocal and tonal range.
Now resident in Utrecht, Farida works other modern masters, Hussein al-A'dhami and Hamid al-Saadi, on the Iraqi Maqam Foundation, a project which she initiated in 1997 with husband Mohammad Gomar, whose mission is to ensure that the Maqam repertoire, which now exists only in exile, survives for future generations.