Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Iraqi maqam master Hamid Al-Saadi on a screen near you

Posted By on 05.07.13 at 01:37 PM

Hamid Al-Saadi
  • courtesy of Rock, Paper, Scissors
  • Hamid Al-Saadi
In February I blogged about a new partnership between the Old Town School of Folk Music and the Chicago public television station WYCC (Channel 20) on a new international music program called Musicology: Live From the Old Town School of Folk Music. That week Habib Koite and Eric Bibb performed in the first concert to be taped for the series; the results were broadcast on April 19. To be honest, I hadn't caught the series yet, but I found out that the three episodes that have aired thus far are now available in their entirety on YouTube. I spent this morning watching the program produced from the extraordinary March 22 concert by the Iraqi maqam master Hamid Al-Saadi with Oak Park native and santur player Amir ElSaffar, which aired this past Friday, May 3 (you can see it after the jump).

The program mixes performance footage with musician interviews, and for something as far off the mainstream musical map as Iraqi maqam, the explanations and history prove invaluable; the cultural illumination comes from the voices of the musicians themselves, without obtrusive narrators. Most important, the pieces featured are presented in full, not broken up or interrupted by talking heads. It's very difficult to track down recordings by Al-Saadi in the U.S., so having a document like this readily available is something we should all be grateful for. Obviously, watching a YouTube video doesn't match catching the show in HD, but these 60 minutes are pretty terrific. The concert was one of the best I've experienced this year, a feeling the video only reinforces.

The next episode of Musicology, which airs every Friday at 9 PM, will feature the Creole Choir of Cuba.

Today's playlist:

Prince Far I, Silver & Gold: 1973-1979 (Blood and Fire)
Heartless Bastards, Arrow (Partisan)
Evan Parker, House Full of Floors (Tzadik)
General Echo, Teacher Fi Di Class (Equalizer)
Willem Breuker Kollektief, Summer Music: Willem Breuker Kollektief à Paris (Marge)

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