Monday, March 04, 2019

Musician Tassa finds popularity in Israel and in Arab world

Over half-a-million Israelis can claim Iraqi ancestry today. One is Dudu Tassa, who has made a career out of adapting the music of his grandfather Daoud, one of the famous al-Kuwaity brothers. Their music is still played in the Arab world, and now Dudu's own music is establishing a following there. (With thanks: Lily, Michelle)

Dudu Tassa’s new album, El-Hajar, which in Arabic means “exile,” is a mash-up of modern takes on melodies made popular by his forebears, the late Daoud and Saleh al-Kuwaiti, who fled from Iraq to Israel close to 70 years ago.

Israeli musician Dudu Tassa poses for a picture during rehearsals with his band, The Kuwaitis, in Tel Aviv, Israel February 25, 2019.

“Over there, they owned a club and played in major concert halls,” Tassa said, adding that his grandfather’s music was adored by Faisal II, the last King of Iraq.

“In Israel, they ended up playing at weddings and bar mitzvahs,” Tassa, 42, said. “There was a real sense of pain there. It wasn’t easy for them.”

The musician’s family was among the tens of thousands of Iraqi Jews who fled in the mid-20th century to Israel, whose creation in 1948 and successive defeats of Arab armies caused bursts of popular anger and violence against Jews. (In fact the violent Farhud predated Israel - ed)

Saddam Hussein ordered the Kuwaiti brothers’ names removed from Iraq’s national archives after coming to power in 1979, Tassa says.

Today, some 600,000 Israelis, out of a population of close to 9 million, can claim a measure of Iraqi ancestry—a trace of history Tassa and his band, The Kuwaitis, have brought to light through their three Arabic-language albums.

“We get reactions from all over the Arab world, on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram,” Tassa, who regularly sells out concerts in Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities, said. “They send us messages from Iraq and Baghdad saying, ‘Come perform, come perform’.”

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More about Dudu Tassa

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