Farida Mohammed Ali is one of Iraq’s most prominent female practitioners of Arabic classical music, which is based on an ancient and complex system of maqam, or melodic modes, each of which has its own distinctive scale, rules, and mood. In fact, the organizers of the tour claim that Farida is the first woman to teach this tradition in Iraq, and that she is now the first Iraqi woman to perform it in the States. No wonder she’s the one: her voice is both powerful and delicate, gripping the words–ornate poetry about pledging devotion to one’s lover–with conviction but then surrendering poignantly to the emotions they convey. The three musicians who’ll back Farida in Chicago come from the Iraqi Maqam Ensemble, founded by the legendary oud master Munir Bashir in 1973; the instrumentation will include the djoze (a spike fiddle), hand drums, and the santur (an Arabic hammer dulcimer). The musicians will also perform a selection of Iraqi popular songs. Monday, May 21, 7 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-7094.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dirk Hompes.