Understanding Iraq through the ancient oud

Rahim AlHaj
Rahim Alhaj's latest CD is called "When the Soul Is Settled." He says his soul will be settled when the occupation of Iraq has ended and the country is full of music again.
MPR Photo

Iraqi-born musician Rahim AlHaj is a master of the oud, a stringed instrument with origins going back 5,000 years to the beginning of Mesopotamian civilization.

AlHaj was imprisoned in the late 1980s for speaking and singing against Saddam Hussein's regime. He fled Iraq in 1991 with false identity papers and came to the United States in 2000. Today he performs concerts throughout his adopted country, aiming to show that not all Arabs are terrorists with "weird beards."

AlHaj has just released a new CD, "When the Soul Is Settled: Music of Iraq." He came to the Twin Cities to perform an original work for oud and string quartet with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

AlHaj brought his oud to the Minnesota Public Radio studios for a conversation with host Alison Young.

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