“Ahlam Babiliyya – Babylonian Dreams” – modern iraqi maqam
Tradition is to feed the fire, not to preserve the ashes.
Saif Al-Khayyat and Nora Thiele met in Leipzig in 2002, which marked the beginning of an intense musical collaboration and friendship. The latest CD and programme of this Duo “Ahlam Babiliyya” (Babylonian Dreams), is an homage to the lost cultural heyday of the babylonian empire and features traditional Iraqi music as well as the duo’s own compositions and improvisation. The focus is on conservation of traditional Iraqi maqam music as well as the gentle renewal and further development of this style. This musical duo manage to bring together tradition and innovation in a breathtaking manner, impressing with their virtuosic collaboration and creating an intimate and mesmerising concert atmosphere with their artful playing. Like a stream flowing into boundlessness, the rhythm of the drum carries with it the oud’s sighs, laments and wildly gyrating cries of ecstasy. The moment itself is what stands at the heart of this project – a musical meditation, an ornamentation of affects.
In 2015 the Duo Al-Khayyat/Thiele won the Creole World Music Price Berlin. The Jury says:
The musical narrative exhibited great virtuosity and impressed us, as well as the delicate interplay between the musicians, who prove that you don’t need a large ensemble in order to open musical worlds.
“Many are the illustrious artists who have taken it upon themselves to modernise and expand classical Arab music: Marcel Khalifé, the Joubran siblings, Mahmoud Turkmani and Dhafer Youssef, Rabih Abou-Khalil (…) ‘Ahlam Babiliyya’ can hold its own amongst such company. It is sure not only to delight enthusiasts and connoisseurs of Arab music, but to help to introduce this music to new listeners too. The album issues a convincing riposte composed of music and poetry to counter the savagery that is sadly widespread in today’s Mesopotamia.”
“zenith” Zeitschrift für den Orient, Sept/Oct 2014, Veit Rasshofer