Music can sooth the busy mind, and calm the tormented soul. Music can bring people together, and it can lift them above their struggles.
Five years ago, on a beautiful evening in Gaza, I was serenaded by an Oud player and his fellow musicians for several hours. The event was a complete surprise to me, and was without a doubt one of the highlights of my visit. I will never forget the magical feeling I had that evening. “This can’t be real.” “This is too good to be true.” “Someone pinch me and wake me from this dream.”
I haven’t stopped thinking of these wonderful musicians in Gaza, especially the Oud player, Yehal Adel. You can catch a snippet of Yehal’s talent here. He composed the music and words to this beautiful song about his love for Jerusalem.
Recently I was reminded of the power of the magical Oud when I heard Rahim AlHaj play in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was playing with a group at the St. John’s United Methodist Church.
Rahim AlHaj is world famous and his performance at the Library of Congress is just a sample. I hope I can introduce these two Oud players, and someday they may play together!
Rahim AlHaj was born in Baghdad, Iraq and began playing the oud (Arabic lute) at age nine. He moved to the US in 2000 as a political refugee and has resided in Albuquerque, New Mexico, ever since. Rahim has performed around the globe and is considered one of the finest oud players in the world. His compositions evoke the experience of exile from his homeland and of new beginnings in his adopted country. In 2015 Rahim was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship.
Sourena Sefati was born in Ramsar, Iran, and started playing santour (hammered dulcimer) at age 11. He won the award for best composer of Iranian music at Art University in 2006 and served as instructor at Art University and Elmi-Karbordi University in Tehran from 2008 to 2014. Sourena moved to the United States in 2014, and teaches Iranian music in Albuquerque.
Issa Malluf is a Palestinian-American native of New Mexico. Originally self-taught, Issa has become a highly skilled and internationally recognized specialist in Middle Eastern, Arabic, and North African percussion.