Welcome Speech for Alkuwaity Event

By Ahmed Mukhtar

Welcome to you all Ahla Wasahlan in attending this event at the Brunei Theatre of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)

We are celebrating today the 100th anniversary of birth of Saleh Alkuwaity, the great Iraqi musician and composer. We commemorate him as of a person of artistic value not as Iraqi or Kuwaiti but as of great human value who managed with his rich compositions to establish some very memorable music in the area and in particular for the Iraqi people where all the Iraqis tend to sing his songs and are still attached to his classical compositions. The genius of Saleh Alkuwaity was distinguished in the first half of the twentieth century and he varied his melodies to be in agreement with most of the voices of singers whether male or female, which in itself an attestation to his many musical abilities is. He was a man of vast musical productions as he presented hundreds of songs as they come to his mind. He was preparing more than 5 songs a year for every singer, though there were lots of them with different characteristics. He created new styles of Iraqi Maqam music and freed the Maqam from its restrictions and mixed some of it with urban music. He was distinguished in the Modeleshin style which involved improvising the Maqam and coordinating with harmony. With his brother Daoud, who was a singer and a Oud player, influenced the music in Iraq and together they founded the Broadcasting Ensemble.

Saleh Alkuwaity was born in Kuwait in 1908 from a family of Iraqi origin which emigrated from Basra to Kuwait at the beginning of the last century. He and his brother Daoud took lessons by the well known Kuwaiti musician Khalid Al Bakr. At first they learned the tunes of Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen and Hajaz and then they became introduced to Iraqi and Egyptian music by listening to records. Saleh Alkuwaity was also skilful in playing the violin.

They also exploited their presence in Basra and close proximity of it to extend their knowledge in the rules of the Iraqi Maqam and its subsidiaries. In 1929 they decided to leave for Baghdad and there the famous Iraqi singer Selima Murad suggested that he composes some songs for her. He picked up some excerpts of poems from the well known Iraqi poets Abdel Karim Alallaf and Seif Aldin Walaii and he composed in a short period of time many songs like Qalbak sakhar jalmoud, Ah yasleima, Ma han Alaya , Minnak yal Asmar,and khadri al chai khadri. These songs had an unparalleled tremendous reception from the public which encouraged Saleh Alkuwaity to give composing music his first priority. He also travelled at times to Kuwait to celebrate parties for the Kuwaiti public which used to and still does afford him the greatest respect and status for his continued interest in the musical Kuwaiti heritage. In 1951 he was denaturalised and he immigrated to Israel and he passed away in 1986.

Today we are celebrating this humanitarian artistic value and let me welcome you in the name of the team workers and organisers of this celebration which idea was the birth child of our friend Linda Menuhim. I seized upon the chance of taking the responsibility for organising the event as soon as she suggested that to me; however financial considerations prevented us from doing so and we were faced with failing to organise the event but for the kind assistance of a friend who does not want his name to be mentioned, and who gave us the encouragement to proceed with the project. We therefore started once more, despite the continued financial difficulties, and we are once more, undertaking to do this celebration with the support of good people.

I cannot but express my deep gratitude and thanks to SOAS for their kind offer of facilities and theatre. SOAS is the main sponsor for this celebration. I would also like to thank all the contributors and attendees and wish you all success.