It's a little-known fact that, until 1950, most of Iraqi's musicians were Jews. Regine Basha, a second-generation Iraqi Jew, has created a website to preserve their heritage. The Jerusalem Post reports:
In a modest home in Ramat Gan, a small group of elderly musicians have gathered to play. Abraham Salman, a blind kanoun player, works his fingers masterfully over the large zither-like instrument in his lap. Naim Rejwan strums at an ornate oud, while Baghdadi singer Abdu Sa'ada - known as the "Golden Voice" of Iraqi radio - intones Inta Omri by the legendary Egyptian singer Umm Kalthoum.
Each week the group gathers to recreate the music of their youth in Iraq, where they were once the country's most prominent musicians. Though their numbers are thinning, the work of these artists is being preserved on the Internet by Regine Basha, a Brooklyn-based curator and second-generation Iraqi Jew.
"It was just one of those things that no one talks about anymore. It seemed as though not only did people not know that there were Jews in Iraq very recently, but they also didn't know that they had this important contribution to the cultural makeup of the country," Basha said of her inspiration to create the Web site, tuningbaghdad.net.
Tuning Baghdad gathers original footage of gatherings such as the one in Ramat Gan, as well as old Super 8 home videos dug out of dusty boxes. The site also contains numerous audio clips and links to YouTube videos and other on-line materials that flesh out the once-vibrant world of Iraqi Jewish music.
"That was partially the impetus for the Web site, so you could go deeper and understand how this was all connected, how the footage is really only tapping into the tip of an iceberg of a community that was so integrated and so much a part of the culture," Basha said.
Though that world is receding with its aging participants, Basha's project provides a window into one of the 20th century's more remarkable cultural phenomena.