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Prom 33 - Ilham Al Madfai and Friends

1 hour, 30 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 09 August 2010


Live from the Royal Albert Hall, London

Presented by Lucy Duran.

Two generations interpreting Iraqi music for a contemporary audience: Pioneering Iraqi singer and guitarist Ilham Al Madfai and his group play his own songs and traditional Iraqi favourites, and are joined by Ilham's student, oud player Khyam Allami. Damascus-born and London-raised, Khyam is the first student of Radio 3's World Routes Academy.

The music promises to be rhythmically powerful, as the band includes not only a Western-style bass guitar and drum kit rhythm section, but also two additional percussionists. Traditional Iraqi instruments the joza (spike fiddle) and qanun (zither) are also included in the line-up.

Ilham Al Madfai (guitar/vocals)
Khyam Allami (oud)

Saro Kevorkian (drums)
Faisal Ghazi; Walid Kamel (oriental percussion)
Andrea Piccioni (percussion)
Omar Bashir (oud)
Azad Omar Mohammed (ney)
Jamil Al Asadi (qanoon)
Luca Scansani (electric bass)


Ilham Al-Madfai was once known as the Beatle of Baghdad. He formed his first band in the 1960s, the first band in Iraq that used "modern" instruments in playing Arabic music. His family was against his involvement in music, and sent him to London to study architecture. But he continued to perform with a group, particularly at Cafe Baghdad in London. Leading musicians attended his gigs including Paul McCartney, Donovan and Georgie Fame.

Ilham returned to Iraq to develop his musical career. He introduced Spanish guitar rhythms from Andalusia to Iraqi folk song, appealing to a newer, younger audience. He reached a peak in popularity during the 70s, becoming Iraq's most popular musician of the time.


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