Alkuwaity in Holland

Evening Mesopotamia, presented by Awtan Cultural Foundation in the Hague, had its candles illuminated by the expert artist Ismail Fadhil and an elite of Iraqi musicians

For the sake of gratitude and for the sake of his devotion to fine music that he documented and insisted on distributing worldwide wherever he settled, our artist that we are currently celebrating passed away and we commemorate his 104th birthday. It is none other than the great Iraqi artist, known as Saleh Alkuwaity. He was the pioneering musician, who is considered as the main founder of modern Iraqi song from the thirties and forties of the last century, and whose approach was copied by most composers and musicians proceeding his era.

On this occasion, the Awtan Cultural Foundation organised on Saturday 16-06-2012 in collaboration with Dakota Theatre in The Hague and a group of superb Iraqi musicians residing in various displaced locations; those whose hearts are filled with the love of Iraq, its dynasty its heritage and its art. They are: the artist Taher Barakat, a violinist resident in the United Kingdom; the artist Jameel Mohammed Ali, Qanoon player and the artist Latif al-Obeidi, Oud player, both residing in the Netherlands; the artist Mohammed Laftah on the Raqq and the artist Furat Al-Quraishi on Tabla, both resident in Sweden

The ceremony began after the Hall was entered by the distinguished attendees. I say this in all honesty as it was a beautiful group of people, whether they were from the Iraqi side or from the Dutch side. Among the attendees was the adept actor Khalil Shawqi Al-Harthy, skilled artist Harith AlHammudi, the Sheikh of all Iraqi journalists Mr Jassem AlMutair, the Cultural Attache of the Iraqi Embassy in the Netherlands Dr Mufid AlDulaimy, the artist Farida Mohammed Ali and the artist Mohammed Hussein Gomar together with a large number of intellectuals and personas interested in art, culture and literature of Arab civilization

The evening started with an address by Mr. Mahmoud Jassem Al-Najjar, Director of the Awtan Cultural Foundation, and Mr Paul Konisma the Dakota Theatre Manager, welcoming the audience and announcing the start of the programme. This was followed by a short talk shedding the light on the life and musical genius of the artist being celebrated, Saleh AlKuwaity, complemented with a documentary film produced by the Awtan Cultural Foundation which was a continuous twenty minutes talking about his life and his art and his relations with the Arabic and artistic media. The programme gained much audience approval and applause.

After that, the wonderful artists Jameel Mohammed Ali on Qanoon and Latif Al-Obeidi on Oud, played an instrumental composition called “Waterfalls”. They were joined afterwards by the rest of the artists Taher Barakat, Mohammed Lafta and Furat Al-Quraishi, together with the voice of the young artist Nadine who performed two song melodies of Saleh Alkuwaity. The lights were then switched on announcing the end of Part I, and invited the audience for a break to have some Iraqi food prepared by the Awtan Cultural Foundation so as to enhance the musical event by tasting some Iraqi and Baghdadi cuisine.

The second part of the schedule had a special sparkle and a pure Baghdadi fragrance which was, in real terms, the core of the main programme for which our party was established having the company of the magnificent artist, Ismail Fadhil. This artist holds in his breath and pulse all that is Iraq. When he talks to you with his warm Baghdadi accent he makes you feel the fragrance of that old beautiful era which shun of brightness, elegance and authenticity of its alleys and lanterns. When he sang he amazed everybody with his vocal ability, in his crescendos and in his mastery of rhythm of the musical heritage which is immersed in the aroma of the cultural traditions with such originality that spellbounded the audience. He enchanted with his conduct and graceful nodding which showed sensibility and good etiquette borne in him beside the wonderful art. He learnt this from his pioneering masters like Qubbanchi, Yusef Omar, Nadhim AlGhazali and many other names for whom we do not have the space to recount. He learnt through them the manner of respecting his audience, his art and his country. He fulfilled the faith of those who taught him and lent him a step to progress forward with his art.

Ismail Fadhil.... an artist who won the hearts of all present, Iraqis and Dutch audience by his elegant Baghdadi personality with all its dignity and loftiness... and he nailed their hearts to their seats through his tantalising voice like the sweet water which reaches the heart directly. What added to the sweetness of the evening was the participation of the artist Farida Mohammed Ali in singing a beautiful Baghdadi song. Ismail Fadhil then returned to charm us once again with his songs till late in that beautiful evening. Everyone was happy applauding and thrilled with his voice and wonderful accompanying musicians. Everyone wished that time would not pass in fear that the evening would end and the echoing sound of his songs would stop.

Evening Mesopotamia as we called it and hoped for, was truly Mesopotamic. It met with greater approval from the European public than the Iraqis. Through this evening we delivered a message that our devotion still remains in our hearts and the hearts of the good people, like these wonderful artists who joined in this celebration. We recalled a name and an icon being that of Saleh Alkuwaity, thus remembering this great artist who proffered a great deal for the Iraqi song, so much so that the great majority of the songs performed that evening were of his compositions and are regarded as the beautiful Iraqi cultural heritage that Iraqis sing. At the same time we evoked our deferred dreams and the home of a wounded country called Iraq so that the world would see it in its splendid images of elegance and shining glory.

It was truly a festival of celebration, culture and study of the name Iraq with all its people, civilisation and long history, present and past. We ask God to make us able to offer something for our country as we recall our ingenious poets, artists, scientists and innovators ... and we will have our faithfulness as an attribute and a distinguishing feature that we will always boast of.

Here are some photos from the evening

With greetings

Mahmoud Jassem Al-Najjar

Director of Awtan Cultural Foundation in The Hague