Rebuilding Iraq: Ottmar Liebert and Rahim Alhaj Return to Moorish Traditions

The Spanish guitar and the sounds of flamenco have a Middle Eastern connection that dates back to the Moorish conquest of Spain in the eighth century.  In fact, as an undergraduate student studying classical guitar, I learned that one of the first treatises of musical instruments was written during this time period.  As a result, instrumental music migrated into modern day Andalusia, profoundly affecting Spanish music and laying the foundation for Flamenco.

Ottmar Liebert, well known for his nouveau flamenco style, has joined with modern oud player, Rahim Alhaj, on Under the Rose bringing together Iraqi music and modern flamenco.  Alhaj fled from political tyranny in Baghdad.  Following in the footsteps of Ziryab, a famous oud player during the Moorish conquest,  Alhaj has revived the ancient musical heritage between the Middle East and Spain.

Early in the Moors’ reign, an illustrious Iraqi oud player, Ziryab, fled Baghdad in fear for his life, as the story goes, and migrated to Córdoba, a cultural center of Al-Andalus (Andalusia). He brought with him a profound musical heritage and a host of innovations that laid the foundation for Spanish music. Among many other things, he initiated an evolutionary process that led to the development of the modern flamenco guitar.

Liebert and Alhaj together with Jon Gagan (bass, keyboard), who also produced the CD, and Barrett Martin (percussion) have created a modern musical journey of 10 tracks.  Liebert has added his own twist to flamenco by using contemporary electronic instrumentation  mixed with the traditional style of the oud.

All proceeds will be donated by UR Music to Direct Aid Iraq – – in support of its efforts to restore hope for the tens of thousands of Iraqi children whose lives have been devastated by violence, whether through the loss of home or family or through injury and disability.  Direct Aid Iraq (DAI) is a network of Iraqis, Americans, and others supporting a future of peace for Iraq through providing aid, facilitating cooperation, engaging in advocacy, and providing education.

I love stories in which musicians come together to lend a helping hand to people in need.  It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with what has taken place in Iraq.  There is no way to reverse it.  What matters is that we do what we can to help out.

Here is the album available below, enjoy and donate if you can.

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