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Oud Musician & Composer


Rahim AlHaj, virtuoso oud musician and composer, was born in Baghdad, Iraq and began playing the oud (the grandfather of all stringed instruments) at age nine. Early on, it was evident that he had a remarkable talent for playing the oud. Mr. Alhaj studied under the renowned Munir Bashir, considered by many to be the greatest oud player ever, and Salim Abdul Kareem, at the Institute of Music in Baghdad, Iraq. Mr. AlHaj won various awards at the Conservatory and graduated in 1990 with a diploma in composition. He holds a degree in Arabic Literature from Mustunsariya University in Baghdad. In 1991, after the first Gulf War, Mr. AlHaj was forced to leave Iraq due to his activism against the Saddam Hussein regime and began his life in Jordan and Syria. He moved to the US in 2000 as a political refugee and has resided in Albuquerque, NM ever since. Rahim became a US citizen on August 15, 2008.

Rahim has performed around the world and is considered one of the finest oud players in the world. He has won many accolades and awards including two Grammy nominations. Rahim has recorded and performed with other master musicians of varied backgrounds and styles including genre-busting American guitarist Bill Frisell, modern accordion innovator Guy Klucevsek, Indian sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan and indy-rock pioneers REM. He has composed pieces for solo oud, string quartet, symphony and beyond. Rahim’s music delicately combines traditional Iraqi maqams with contemporary styling and influence. His compositions evoke the experience of exile from his homeland and of new beginnings in his adopted country. His pieces establish new concepts without altering the foundation of the traditional “Iraqi School of Oud”.

Rahim has released eleven CDs including the acclaimed Letters From Iraq on Smithsonian Folkways (2017), a powerful musical meditation on consequences in a post-war reality. Infinite Hope  released in 2015, with Amjad Ali Khan, is a follow up to their 2010 Grammy-nominated collaboration.  Journey (2014), is a retrospective of his music up to that year, including a new track.  Little Earth was released in 2010 to remarkable reviews. The two-CD project features Rahim’s original composition in collaboration with the likes of Frisell, Klucevsek, Peter Buck (REM), Maria De Barros, Liu Fang, Robert Mirabal, Hossein Omoumi, Santa Fe Guitar Quartet, Yacouba Sissoko, Stephen Kent, and many more including Little Earth Orchestra.  Ancient Sounds (UR Music, 2009), is a duet recording with Indian sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan, which was nominated for a 2010 Grammy in the Best Traditional World Music Recording category. In 2009 he also released a special recording Under The Rose with Ottmar Liebert, Jon Gagan and Barrett Martin, with all net proceeds benefitting Direct Aid Iraq. Home Again (UR Music, 2008), is a tour de force of touching and evocative original compositions portraying his trip to Iraq after 13 years in exile.  When the Soul is Settled: Music of Iraq (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 2007) was also nominated for a Grammy in 2008.  His earlier recordings include Friendship: Oud and Sadaqa String Quartet (2005), a unique East and West musical collaboration, The Second Baghdad (2002) and the live CD Iraqi Music in a Time of War (2003). Rahim is featured in the 2009 documentary film on Smithsonian Folkways. Capping off an artistically fruitful 2009, Rahim was awarded the prestigious US Artist Ford Fellowship Grant.  Rahim's latest recording One Sky featuring The Rahim AlHaj Trio, (Smithsonian Folkways, 2018) continues this very special artist's message of peace and unity. Joining Rahim on the recording are Iranian santour maestro Sourena Sefati and Palestinian-American percussionist master Issa Malluf.

Rahim AlHaj  "Going Home " Live on KEXP
Rahim AlHaj on NPR's Tiny Desk Concert




One Sky Tour


More dates being added 

February 16 - University of Iowa - Iowa City, IA (with string quartet)
February 21 - Albuquerque Museum - Albuquerque, NM (duo)

April 15-17 - House of Song Ozarks - Bentonville, AR (trio)
April 18 -19 - Faulkner Performing Arts Center - Fayetteville, AR (trio)

May 4 - Symphony Space - New York (Fandango at The Border with Arturo O'Farrill & Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra) 

May 5 -  Symphony Space - New York (Fandango at The Border with Arturo O'Farrill & Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra) 

May 5 -  University of Chicago - Chicago, IL (with string quintet)

May 9 - Musical Instrument Museum - Phoenix, AZ (with Sahba Motallebi)

June 6 -  Forte Music Festival - Almaty, Kazakhstan (trio and with string quintet)
June 7 -  Forte Music Festival - Almaty, Kazakhstan (trio
and with string quintet)
June 8 -  Forte Music Festival - Almaty, Kazakhstan (trio and with string quintet)

June 9 - Forte Music Festival - Almaty, Kazakhstan (trio and with string quintet)

June 21 - Kirkland Performing Arts Center - Kirkland, WA (with Sahba Motallebi)

June 22 - Portland State University - Portland, OR (with Sahba Motallebi)

June 27 - Freight & Salvage - Berkeley, CA (with Sahba Motallebi)

July 13 - Montana Folk Festival - Butte, MT (trio)

July 14 - Montana Folk Festival - - Butte, MT (trio)

September 7 - National Folk Festival - Sailisbury, MD

September 8 - National Folk Festival - Sailisbury, MD

September 23 - Macey Center - Socorro, NM (with string quartet)

September 24 - Light Theatre - Silver City, NM (with string quartet)

October 18 - Festival of Sacred Music - Kalamazoo, MI (with Sahba Motallebi)
October 19 - Old Town School - Chicago, IL (with Sahba Motallebi)

October 23 - Kranzberg Arts Center - St. Louis, MO (with trio)

November 8 - University of Texas - Austin (with string quintet)



More dates being added 

January 23 - Folk Alliance International - New Orleans, LA (with trio)

February 15 - Merkin Concert Hall - New York, NY (with Sahba Motallebi)

March 16 - 20 - Mariinsky Theatre - St. Petersburg, Russia (with string orchestra)
April 19 - Skirball Center - Los Angeles, CA (with Sahba Motallebi)
April 25 - Benaroya Hall - Seattle, WA (with Seattle Symphony)

April 26 - Benaroya Hall - Seattle, WA (with Seattle Symphony)

May 2 - Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts - Hamilton, New Zealand (with New Zealand String Quartet)

May 3 - Concert Chamber at Aukland Townhall - Aukland, New Zealand (with New Zealand String Quartet)

May 5 - Public Trust Building - Wellington, New Zealand (with New Zealand String Quartet)
May 7 - Nelson Centre of Musical Arts - Nelson, New Zealand (with 
New Zealand String Quartet)

May 8 - The Piano Centre for Music and the Arts - Christchurch, New Zealand (with New Zealand String Quartet)

May 10 - Victoria Room at Civic Theatre - Invercargill, New Zealand (with New Zealand String Quartet)

May 11 - Glenroy Auditorium - Dunedin, New Zealand (with New Zealand String Quartet)


Selected Past Performances

WOMADelaide - Adelaide, Australia (trio)

WOMAD NZ - New Plymouth, New Zealand (trio)

Beyond: Microtonal Music Festival - Pittsburgh, PA (solo)

Sydney Festival  - Sydney, Australia (with Karim Wasfi, cello)

Arts For The Schools - Truckee, CA (residency)

 Joe Henderson Lab @ SF Jazz Center - San Francisco, CA (solo)

Musical Instrument Museum - Phoenix, AZ

 St. John's United Methodist Church - Albuquerque, NM (with string quintet)

Reston Community Center - Reston, VA (with string quintet)

WOMADelaide - Adelaide, Australia (trio)

WOMAD NZ - New Plymouth, New Zealand (trio)
Outpost Performance Space - Albuquerque, NM (trio)

Fandango Fronteriza - Tijuana, MX (trio)
 Winnipeg Folk Festival - Winnipeg, MB (duo)

Site Santa Fe - Santa Fe, NM (solo)
Middlebury College - Middlebury, VT (trio)

Faulkner Performing Arts Center - Fayetteville, AR (trio)

 Washington College - Chestertown, MD (with string quintet)

 J. Paul Getty Museum -  Los Angeles, CA (with string quintet)

Town Hall - Seattle, WA (with string quintet)

Benaroya Hall - Seattle, WA (with Seattle Symphony)

Lotus World Music & Arts Festival - Bloomington, IN  (duo)

World Music Festival - Chicago (duo)

Arab American National Museum - Dearborn, MI  (with string orchestra)

Court Square Theater - Harrisonburg, VA (solo)

 Virginia Folklife Program - Charlottesville, VA (residency/solo)

Ibrahim Theater at International House -  Philadelphia, PA (with string quintet)

The Sanctuary - Troy, NY (trio)

David Rubinstein Atrium at Lincoln Center - New York, NY (trio)

¡Globalquerque! - Albuquerque, NM  (with string quintet)

Grand Performances - Los Angeles, CA (with string quintet)

Festival Cultural - Zacatecas, MX

Georgia State University - Atlanta, GA

Global Fusion Festival - Muscat, Oman

Houston International Festival - Houston, TX

Beloved Festival - Tidewater, OR (duo)
West Kortright Centre - East Meredith, NY (trio)

 Rochester, NY - Eastman World Music Series at University of Rochester (trio)

Alleged on 25th - Ogden, UT (with string quintet)

KiMO Theatre - Albuquerque, NM ( Lampedusa Concert For Refugees - solo and w/Joan Baez, Steve Earle, Patty Griffin)

San Ysidro Church - Corrales NM (trio)

Guiyang Festival - Guiyang, China

Texas Christian University - Fort Worth, TX (residency / with strings)

University of Maryland - College Park, MD (residency/trio)

Common Fence Music - Portsmouth, RI (trio)

Crossroads Music - Philadelphia, PA (trio)

Kennedy Center - Washington DC (trio)

Library of Congress - Washington DC (solo)

Lowell Folk Festival - Lowell, MA (trio)

Smithsonian Folklife Festival - Washington DC (trio)

University of North Carolina - Charlotte, NC (residency / with strings)

University of Iowa - Iowa City, IA  (residency / with strings)

College of William and Mary - Williamsberg, VA (duo)

Lisner Auditorium - Washington, DC (solo)

National Folk Festival - Greensboro, NC (duo)

Montana Folk Festival - Butte Montana (trio)

Richmond Folk Festival - Richmond, VA

University of Alberta - Alberta, Canada

University of Texas - Austin, TX