Three generations of Iraqi Jews came to hear a musical tribute in Jerusalem to Nazem al-Ghazali, described as the Pavarotti of the Arab world. Haaretz was there (with thanks: Lily):
The homage to singer Nazem al-Ghazali drew at least three generations of Israelis, most of them of Iraqi descent. And when the evening's musical director, Yair Dalal, noted that although al-Ghazali had died almost 50 years ago, his songs remain etched in the memories of Iraqi Jews, many grandparents in the audience nodded in agreement.
Al-Ghazali, who died at 42 in 1963, was one of the great Iraqi vocalists of the mid-20th century. Although he's not as well-known as his counterparts in Egypt and Lebanon, the festival organizers deserve credit for aiming the footlights at him and his work.
Prof. Yossi Yonah translated some of the songs and spoke in between sets, but unfortunately, his amusing anecdotes and esoteric theories did not exactly bring al-Ghazali and his milieu to life. Indeed, the Oud Festival is probably not the best place to declare a great Iraqi singer "the Pavarotti of the Arab world."
But these are trivial matters. In fact, who cares what anyone says when the music is fantastic? Dalal gathered a group of fabulous musicians, some of whom - the older ones - come from al-Ghazali's world: violinist Elias Zubeida, qanun player Victor Ida, oud player Said Ajami and Albert Elias, who even played in al-Ghazali's orchestra. Their playing, energetic and rich in nuance, was best characterized as "straight and to the point," without a tad of sentimentality.
Zubeida's violin solos were focused and short but worth their weight in gold. So were oud player Ajami's black-and-white trills. The younger players (Dalal and three percussionists - Herzl Sagi, Erez Munk and Avi Agababa ) took on the old guards' aesthetics and perfectly complemented the ensemble.
Three singers attempted to fill al-Ghazali's shoes. Dalal Salam, the oldest, impressed with his theatricality (al-Ghazali was an actor before he became a singer ), though sometimes his singing lacked force.