Tuning Baghdad host Regine Basha asks the question: can there be a musical citizenship? through her explorations into the musical history of the Iraqi-Jewish diaspora. Each episode features home recordings of the last generation of Iraqi Jewish musicians of Baghdad still performing today and beloved arabic songs from Egypt and other countries that intersect with the ensemble instruments and musical scale of the Maqam. Additionally, Basha shares "mystery mixtapes" from her own family archives.
The daughter of an Iraqi-Jewish oud player from Baghdad, Basha grew up amidst the musically rich scene of all-night Iraqi-Jewish arabic parties, witnessing what music critic Josh Kun calls an "Audiotopia", where identification, joy, and connectivity smoothed over the thorny complications of being an "arab-jew" in the diaspora. Spurred on by these memories, Basha began digging into her family's home movies. The musicians and songs she found in the tapes, and in her subsequent research, unveiled Iraq's 2,000 year old Jewish community, the first group to flee Iraq in the late 1940s, as a leader of the country's modern musical landscape at the time. In 1932, for example, they introduced Iraq's National Radio Station to countless arabic songs based on the four-hundred-year-old genre, Iraqi Maqam, a multi-instrumental ensemble style based on poetry sung in classical Arabic or Iraqi dialect.
Working with London-based ethnomusicologist, Yeheskel Kojaman, Basha spent over a decade recording many of the remaining musical figures of the diaspora, who have continued the tradition of the musical parties of long-ago, in private, modest ensembles hosted out of their living rooms - endlessly tuning the instruments as a way to teleport back to Iraq. Video and audio archives of this research can be found in four chapters on tuningbaghdad.net.
Seeking the Maqam
Life of The Party