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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 Venezu percussionist master Javier Saume-Mazzei.

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





February 17 - St. James Hall - Vancouver, BC Canada (with trio)

February 18 - Rainier Arts Center - Seattle, WA (with North Corner Chamber Orchestra)

February 19 KEXP Community Space - Seattle, WA (with North Corner Chamber Orchestra)

April 25 -  Qatar America Institute for Culture - Washington DC

May 6 - St. Johns Episcopal Church - Lancaster, PA (with trio)


Selected Past Performances

WOMADelaide - Adelaide, Australia

WOMAD NZ - New Plymouth, New Zealand

Beyond: Microtonal Music Festival - Pittsburgh, PA 

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

Arts For The Schools - Truckee, CA 

SF Jazz Center - San Francisco, CA

Musical Instrument Museum - Phoenix, AZ

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

Reston Community Center - Reston, VA

Outpost Performance Space - Albuquerque, NM

Sydney Opera House - Sydney Australia

Fandango Fronteriza - Tijuana, MX
Winnipeg Folk Festival - Winnipeg, MB

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

Faulkner Performing Arts Center - Fayetteville, AR

 J. Paul Getty Museum -  Los Angeles, CA

Town Hall - Seattle, WA

Benaroya Hall - Seattle, WA

Kranzberg Arts Center - St. Louis MO

Lotus World Music & Arts Festival - Bloomington, IN

World Music Festival - Chicago

Arab American National Museum - Dearborn, MI

Court Square Theater - Harrisonburg, VA

 Virginia Folklife Program - Charlottesville, VA

Ibrahim Theater at International House -  Philadelphia, PA

Kirkland Performance Center - Kirkland (Seattle), WA

David Rubinstein Atrium at Lincoln Center - New York, NY

¡Globalquerque! - Albuquerque, NM

Grand Performances - Los Angeles, CA

Festival Cultural - Zacatecas, MX

Global Fusion Festival - Muscat, Oman

Houston International Festival - Houston, TX

Beloved Festival - Tidewater, OR
West Kortright Centre - East Meredith, NY

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

Guiyang Festival - Guiyang, China

Forte Music Festival - Almaty, Kazakhstan

Crossroads Music - Philadelphia, PA

Kennedy Center - Washington DC 

Library of Congress - Washington DC

West Lafayette Global Fest - West Lafayette, IN (with trio)

Lowell Folk Festival - Lowell, MA

Smithsonian Folklife Festival - Washington DC

Lisner Auditorium - Washington, DC

National Folk Festival - Greensboro, NC

National Folk Festival - Salisbury, MD

Montana Folk Festival - Butte Montana

Richmond Folk Festival - Richmond, VA

Portland State University - Portland, OR

Texas Christian University - Fort Worth, TX

 Eastman World Music Series at University of Rochester - Rochester, NY

Georgia State University - Atlanta, GA

 Washington College - Chestertown, MD

College of William and Mary - Williamsberg, VA

Middlebury College - Middlebury, VT

University of Maryland - College Park, MD

University of Chicago - Chicago, Il

University of Iowa - Iowa City, IA

University of Alberta - Alberta, Canada

University of North Carolina - Charlotte, NC

University of Iowa - Iowa City, IA

University of Texas - Austin, TX 

Kranzberg Arts Center - St. Louis, MO


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