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Thursday, June 16, 2016 @ 6:00 pm-8:00 pm

Rolf Killius on Dusty Streets and Hot Music – Iraqi Music from the Past

Rolf Killius elaborates on the rich traditional music in Iraq with recently digitised recordings from the British Library archive.

By Ali Khadr

BISI Annual Bonham-Carter Lecture 

In this lecture Rolf Killius elaborated on the rich traditional music in Iraq and played some of the recently digitised recordings on old shellac discs from the British Library archive.

The lecture opened with the music played in the Baghdadi music clubs and coffee houses of the 1920s and 1930s. Many recordings are still available on old and fragile shellac discs. The typical music genre is called Iraqi Maqam and was especially popularised by the singer and composer Muhammad al-Qubanshi. With his group he travelled to Cairo and Berlin, where he was recorded. In 1932, at the first international Arabic music conference in Cairo, he presented traditional Iraqi music to a distinguished audience. From the hot clubs of Baghad in the 1940s there are recordings from the legendary singer Salima Murad and the Rifi (country) singer Massoud Al-Amaratly. Al-Amaratly grew up as a girl in the Iraqi countryside, but became a respected male singer in the Iraqi capital. The two Jewish brothers Saleh and Dawud Al-Kuwaiti established themselves as composers and expert musicians. In the 1930s they arrived in Iraq from neighbouring Kuwait. The lecture concluded with the well-known oud-players like Yusuf Omar and Munir Bashir, who established themselves as the first solo instrument players of Iraq.


Rolf Killius is an ethnomusicologist, filmmaker and museum curator and was until recently the Curator of Oral and Musical Cultures at the British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership. In this role he discovered and subsequently digitised numerous shellac discs from Iraq kept in the British Library. Only last October Rolf visited musicians and sound collectors in Baghdad.

You can also listen to the music played by Rolf at the following links:

Traditional Iraqi Music 



Or read more about Rolf’s work in the Middle East at




Date and time

Date : 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Time : 

@ 6:00 pm-8:00 pm


Category : 



Address : 

10 Carlton House Terrace



United Kingdom

, British Academy 



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BISI works to advance research and public education about Iraq in all of the arts, humanities and social sciences subjects, and enables exchange and collaboration between UK and Iraqi academics. Our grants and scholarships have helped the fund the following research projects.