Daoud & Saleh Al-Kuwaity
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Daoud & Saleh Al-Kuwaity
Masters of Iraqi Music
ARC Music (www.arcmusic.co.uk.)

Saleh Al-Kuwaity (1908-1986) and his brother Daoud (1910-1976) were Iraqi Jews born in Kuwait, who as young boys happened to receive a violin and an oud as gifts from an uncle. They soon became proficient on the instruments, were recognized as child prodigies by the Kuwaiti elite and eventually went on to considerable success in Iraq. In addition to becoming favorites of King Faisal and helping to establish Iraq's first radio station, the pair composed songs for some of the biggest stars of the day (including Egypt's Umm Kulthum) and music for formal events throughout the Arab world. Despite attaining fame and influence that benefited the Iraqi Jewish community and beyond, the brothers opted to immigrate to the recently established state of Israel in the early 1950s. Having come from an Arab country, they had no easy time re-forging a musical career. But they did, and continued to be hitmakers for years to come, even in the face of mounting tension between Israel and its Arabic neighbors. The liner notes to this CD tell the brothers' story in detail but unfortunately don't include much information about the songs (which seem to be performances by Saleh and Daoud's own mini-orchestra). Keeping in mind that the tracks likely date from the first half of the 20th century, they sound reasonably clean. Pretty rough and not a lot of production nuance, but the tart arrangements, vocals and instrumentation (with qanun, ney, bass and percussion in addition to violin and oud) are nonetheless both pleasing and engaging in the way they evoke a colorful past musical era. While it's Saleh (on violin) who does most of the soloing, Daoud and the uncredited ensemble have their moments too. Good vintage music, but I'd like to know (and hear) more. - Tom Orr

Editor's note: There is also a 2 CD set of music by the Al-Kuwaity brothers on the Magda label of Israel called Their Star Shall Never Fade that includes these tracks and many others

Masters of Iraqi Music available from cdroots.com

CD available from cdRoots

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