This holiday season, the team at EPIC is listening to some great tracks from young and innovative Iraqi musicians across the country, Middle East, and globe. Engaging traditional lyrics and styles with modern instruments, rhythm, and international influence, these artists present some of the most interesting sounds coming from Iraq today. Below are five tracks that have made it to our playlist. Share your suggestions for other tunes in the comments below. Happy listening!
“Baghdad Choby” (Tarabband)
Tarabband’s cross-cutting style earned their debut album, “Ya Sidi,” a sensational reception. The duo, based in Malmö, Sweden, comprises Iraqi/Egyptian singer Nadin Al Khalidi and Swedish guitarist Gabriel Hermansson, has shown great skill blending musical genres and time barriers. This song, which is off “Ya Sidi,” describes a meeting on a dance floor in Malmö. According to Hermansson, the encounter reminds the “main character in the lyrics about the Iraqi Choby dance, danced in a group of people. The music and rhythm make her remember Baghdad, the city of peace. It is a nostalgic hommage to her beloved home country that she was forced to leave behind her.”
Alif was formed in 2012 by a group of five musicians from Iraq, Egypt, Palestine, and Lebanon. In 2015, they began work on their first album, ” “Aynama-Rtama,” which was released in September that year. “Holaku” is the first single off that album, and blends traditional instruments, oud and buzuq, with a strong vocal melody and ambient keys. The song’s lyrics are taken from a poem by an Iraqi-Assyrian poet and writer, Sargon Boulus.
“Batal” (The Narcicyst)
Yassin “The Narcicyst” Alsalman is an all-encompassing rapper, producer, actor, and performer who is from Basra, Iraq, but currently lives in Montreal, Canada. “Batal” is the longest track off his recent EP, “Nargisee,” and represents his inner cultural mix and a confession of where his soul truly belongs. He also teaches a course on the future of rap and hip-hop at Concordia University.
“Kurdish House Project” (Renas Miran)
Renas Miran was born in Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), although he records most of his music in Hamburg and Berlin. Today, he is one of the most in-demand producers in the modern Kurdish music industry, and has worked on songs by famous musicians like Sivan Perwer, Hesen Sherif, and Xero Abbas. His newest work, from which the above snippet is drawn, is the “Kurdish House Project,” in which he remixes Kurdish music with catchy house beats.
“Kitaab al-Hobb” (Kadhim al-Sahir)
Kadhim al-Sahir, known as the “Caesar of Arabic Song,” mostly sings in traditional Arabic, and was trained at the Baghdad Music Academy. His music ranges from romantic songs, to political and pop Arabic music — and his work has earned many awards, including the Medal of the Ambassador of the Iraqi song.