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)
4. Afifa Iskandar (1921-2012)
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.