Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Take a bow, kanoon player Yusef Zaarur


David Zaarur is reviving the music of his great grandfather Yusef Zaarur, kanoon player extraordinaire (The Forward)  

 With thanks: Ahoova

More proof that a whole new generation of Israelis are rediscovering the musical legacy of their antecedents, the Jewish musicians of 1930s and 40s Iraq.

First, there were the famous Al-Kuwaity brothers, the Bob Dylan and Simon /Garfunkel of their day. They adopted the name in honour of their royal patron, the Emir of Kuwait. Shlomo, son of Saleh Al-Kuwaity,  created an event to commemorate the centenary of the great violinist and composer's birth. Dudu Tassa, a musician in his own right, made a film about his grandfather, the great oud player Daoud al-Kuwaity.

Now it's the turn of David Zaarur to revive the memory of his great-grandfather, the kanoon player Yusef Zaarur.

David is the only musician in his family. This clip from the Forward explains that his great-grandfather played in the Radio Orchestra of Baghdad, which was mostly staffed by Jews.

The Orchestra carried off the first prize in the World Music Congress of Cairo in the 1930s.

Jews dominated the music scene in the mid-20th century. They were the last to leave Iraq for Israel in the mass exodus of 1950 - 51 because the Iraqi authorities detained them until they had passed on their musical skills to Iraqi Muslims.

In a moving sequence in the Forward's clip, Khalil, an Iraqi Muslim living in Baghdad, sends  a message to David in Israel. He apologises for the country's failure to recognise the massive musical contribution of musicians like Yusef Zaarur. In the Saddam era, their records were played on the radio and described only as 'the old music'.

Although the music of the al-Kuwaitys and others has experienced a notable revival in 'the new Iraq', Khalil says he is afraid for having spoken out in favour of Iraq's Jews.

The Al-Kuwaity brothers are back !

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Simon Garfunkel"?

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, I presume.,