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Fans of Iraqi music treated to a double helping at Tantora festival

AL-ULA: In a magical night filled with beauty and elegance, a sell-out audience hungry for an authentic taste of Iraqi music enjoyed a feast on Friday evening served up by two of its greatest exponents.
Kadim Al-Saher and Ilham Al-Madfai treated the audience at their show, part of the Winter in Tantora festival in Al-Ula, to some memorable performances of timeless tunes.
Renowned guitarist, singer and songwriter Al-Madfai, known for his synthesis of western guitar sounds with popular Iraqi music, was first on stage at the Maraya concert hall. The veteran entertainer performed a selection of his best-known hits — including “Bent Al-Shalabiya,” “Khuttar” and “Ashgar Beshama” — which generated a wave of nostalgia that was almost tangible.
The audience reacted with delight when the 77-year-old singer announced: “Now I’ll perform one of the most beautiful songs from my musical career: ‘Mali Shughul Belsoug.’”
Later, he told the enchanted audience, “I’m happy to be here with you,” before performing two songs dedicated to his home city of Baghdad, including one written by the late Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani that includes the line: “Oh, Baghdad, I came to you like an exhausted ship hiding my wounds behind my clothes.”
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Al-Madfai revealed that he was impressed by the natural beauty of Al-Ula.
“I was amazed,” he said. “I was daydreaming about what would I do in such a place for half an hour on my way to the concert.”
He described Saudis as elegant and classy, adding: “The Saudi people have a high degree of elegance in terms of presenting things, taking what is available and turning it into something beautiful —the houses, the rooms and the designs (in Al-Ula).”
Following the wonderful performance by Al-Madfai was no easy task, but Al-Saher was more than capable. Dubbed the “Caesar of Arabic Song,” he entertained the crowd with a selection of his timeless love songs, including “Zidini Ashqan,” “Kul Al-Eshq” and “Eid w Hub.”
The 61-year-old’s high notes echoed among the magnificent mountains and hills of the ancient city of Al-Ula, delighting his awestruck fans.

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