Rahim AlHaj ~ Albuquerque
AlHaj, virtuoso Oud musician and composer, was born in Baghdad, Iraq (1967) and began playing the oud (the grandfather of all stringed instruments) at age nine. Early on, it was evident that he had a remarkable talent for playing the oud. Mr. Alhaj studied under the renowned Munir Bashir, considered by many to be the greatest oud player ever, and Salim Abdul Kareem, at the Institute of Music in Baghdad, Iraq. Mr. AlHaj won various awards at the Conservatory and graduated in 1990 with a diploma in composition. He holds a degree in Arabic Literature from Mustunsariya University in Baghdad. In 1991, after the first Gulf War, Mr. AlHaj was forced to leave Iraq due to his activism against the Saddam Hussein regime and began his life in Jordan and Syria. He moved to the US in 2000 as a political refugee and has resided in Albuquerque, NM ever since. Rahim became a US citizen on August 15, 2008.
Rahim has performed around the world and is considered one of the finest oud players in the world. He has won many accolades and awards including two Grammy nominations. Rahim has recorded and performed with other master musicians of varied backgrounds and styles including genre-busting American guitarist Bill Frisell, modern accordion innovator Guy Klucevsek, Indian sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan and indy-rock pioneers REM. He has composed pieces for solo oud, string quartet, symphony and beyond. Rahim’s music delicately combines traditional Iraqi maqams with contemporary styling and influence. His compositions evoke the experience of exile from his homeland and of new beginnings in his adopted country. His pieces establish new concepts without altering the foundation of the traditional “Iraqi School of Oud”.
Rahim has released seven CDs. His March 2009 release, Ancient Sounds (UR Music), a duet recording with Amjad Ali Khan, was nominated for a 2010 Grammy® in the Best Traditional World Music Recording category. In November of 2009 he released a special recording Under The Rose with Ottmar Liebert, Jon Gagan and Barrett Martin, with all net proceeds benefitting Direct Aid Iraq. Home Again (UR Music, 2008), is a tour de force of touching and evocative original compositions portraying his trip to Iraq after 13 years in exile. When the Soul is Settled: Music of Iraq (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings) was also nominated for a Grammy® in 2008. His earlier recordings include Friendship: Oud and Sadaqa String Quartet (2005), a unique East and West musical collaboration, The Second Baghdad (2002) and the live CD Iraqi Music in a Time of War”, (2003). Rahim is featured in the 2009 documentary film on Smithsonian Folkways Records . Capping off an artistically fruitful 2009, Rahim was awarded the prestigious US Artist Ford Fellowship Grant on December 14th. Look for a new recording Little Earth: Voices For Peace in 2010. The project features Rahim’s original composition in collaboration with the likes of Frisell, Klucevsek, REM, Maria De Barros, Liu Fang, Robert Mirabal, Hossein Omoumi, The Santa Fe Guitar Quartet and many more including, of course, Little Earth Orchestra.
Rahim is a 2015 National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellowship recipient.
above: “Taqsim Maqam Sharqi Rast” by Rahim Alhaj, with Souhail Kaspar (eMusic)
for more information: rahimalhaj.com