The Kennedy Center

Rahim AlHaj


Iraqi oud virtuoso, composer, and two-time Grammy® nominee Rahim AlHaj was born in Baghdad and began playing the oud at age nine. He studied under the renowned Munir Bashir and Salim Abdul Kareem at the Institute of Music in Baghdad, won various awards at the conservatory and graduated in 1990 with a diploma in composition. In 1991, Mr. AlHaj was forced to leave Iraq due to his activism against the Saddam Hussein regime and began his life in Jordan and Syria. He moved to the U.S. in 2000 as a political refugee and became a U.S. citizen in 2008.

Mr. AlHaj has recorded and performed with numerous master musicians including Bill Frisell, Guy Klucevsek, Amjad Ali Khan, and REM. He has composed pieces for solo oud, string quartet, symphony, and beyond. Mr. AlHaj has released seven albums including Ancient Sounds (UR Music), Home Again (UR Music, 2008), When the Soul is Settled: Music of Iraq (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings), Friendship: Oud and Sadaqa String Quartet (2005), The Second Baghdad (2002), and the live CD Iraqi Music in a Time of War (2003).

Mr. AlHaj formed Little Earth Orchestra in 2009 to further his musical vision and interests through his intricate compositions and utilizing western instrumentation and Arabic modes. The group, consisting of Rahim's regular percussionist Issa Malluf, Michael Glynn (double bass), Katie Harlow (cello), Carla Kountoupes (violin), Jason Parris (viola), and Roberta Arruda (violin), creates a mesmerizing new music rooted in the traditions of the east and west.

Watch Past Performances

Video 7/28/2016: Rahim AlHaj Trio

Living in New Mexico, Iraqi-born oud player Rahim AlHaj, Palestinian-American percussionist Issa Malluf, and Iranian santour player Sourena Sefati perform a program entitled Middle Eastern Music from New Mexico.

Part of the Homegrown: The Music of America concert series, presented by the Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

Rahim AlHaj