Features | Awards

Best Musical Sampling of the Mesopotamian Inter-war Period

By Peter Holslin | 18 December 2008

Various Artists
Give Me Love: Songs of the Brokenhearted – Baghdad, 1925-1929
(Honest Jon’s; 2008)

English-speaking countries are still waiting for the Iraqi equivalent to a Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music, but Give Me Love: Songs of the Brokenhearted – Baghdad, 1925-1929 is a splendid—if not comprehensive—start: early His Master’s Voice Gramophone recordings of songs based on the maqam modes, mostly performed by Jewish musicians on simple hand percussion, folksy oud (the micro-tone playing sister to the lute) and the nasally reed intrument mutbij. There are also some elegiac Kurdish violin instrumentals. Give Me Love wins especial commends for its lyric sheet, which details the wailing singers’ aching pains (“I wait for my lover on tenterhooks”) and desperate desires (“There’s always time for recrimination later—after our lovemaking”), usually as they address the ever-present, curious “Traveller.” It’s a lo-fidelity, nostalgic eye into that vibrant, gender-segregated, urban man’s life during the years of the British mandate: whiling away hours in the local coffee shop, listening to 78s. Nice and chill.