Iraqi music is a representation of the ethnic diversity within the country, incorporating styles from Arabs, Assyrians, Kurds, and Turkmen.

Sounds of the oud, santoor, and joza are often heard in these 20th-century melodies. Before popular modern-day singers invaded the scene, these five musicians made their mark. Take a listen here:

1. Nathem Al Ghazali (1921-1963)

Until today, Nathem Al Ghazali remains a symbol of Iraq's golden era of music. He is well known for 'Fowq Al Nakhal','Talaa Min Beit Abooha', and 'Guli Ya Helw'.

He specialized in Iraqi maqam - improvised melodic mode of Arabic music that incorporates traditional instruments and a 'qari' who sings classical Arabic poetry - and was a student of the master of maqam, Mohammad Al Qubanchi.

He married Salima Murad, a prominent Iraqi Jewish singer and they performed many concerts together in Beirut, London, and Paris. 

2. Kathem Al Saher

Known as the 'Caesar' of Arabic music, Kathem Al Saher is one of the most respected composers, singers, and songwriters in the Arab world. He gained popularity with the hit song 'Obart El Shatt' in 1988, and has been a legend ever since.

Al Saher often draws inspiration from Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani, as the two worked closely together, with the latter donating parts of his poetry collection to Al Saher. Songs that incorporate Al Qabbani's poetry include 'Madrasat Al Hob' and 'El Hob El Mostaheel'.

In 2011, Al Saher was selected as UNICEF's goodwill ambassador for Iraq. He has also performed in the United Nations, U.S. Congress, and delivered a tribute to the Pope with the Italian Symphony Orchestra. 

3. Mohammad Al Qubanchi (1900-1989)

Mohammad Al Qubanchi was fascinated with Iraqi maqam and devoted his studies to practicing the melodic mode until he mastered it. 

During the Arabic Music Congress in Cairo in 1932, musical bands were given the opportunity to perform for King Fuad I. Al Qubanchi's band ended up in the first place.

4. Afifa Iskandar (1921-2012)

Afifa Iskandar is another master of Iraqi maqam. She was born to an Iraqi-Armenian father and Greek mother in Mosul. 

Although she regularly performed for Iraqi monarchs and prime ministers, she refused to sing for former President Saddam Hussein and thus kept a low profile during his dictatorship.

5. Salima Murad (1900-1974)

Salima Murad was part of the community of prominent Jewish musicians in Iraq, thus reflecting the country's religious tolerance during most of the 20th century. Murad was given the title 'Pasha' as she was a highly respected singer within the region.

Following a party in 1952, Nathem Al Ghazali and Salima Murad fell in love and got married. The two icons later collaborated together in their music and performances.