Filed under: Iraq
He learned to play the oud (Google translator: “lute autonomous machine”) at a young age. He later studied violin, viola and voice at the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad, where he later became a professor and head of the Department of Music. He has also played in neighboring Kuwait and Syria, as well as Yemen where he is a member of the Federation of Yemeni artists.
Ja’afar Hassan was brought to my attention when I received a copy of the Sublime Frequencies’ compilation ‘Choubi Choubi! Folk and Pop Sounds from Iraq’, which features three songs from his album “Let’s Sing Together”. His music sounded unlike anything else of what little I have been able to find from Iraq during that time period (all of which was recorded in France). It is quite unusal, especially if you consider that there is no oud, for which Ja’afar Hassan is known for playing…
There is almost no mention of this album on his website, except only briefly on the biography page (Google translator: “Cylinder issued to him in Berlin entitled ‘to enrich together’.”). Also on his website, there is a page of his press clippings, but there is a 11 year gap from 1966 and 1997.
Also, there is very little information on the record itself. There is no indication of a record lable, but there is a catalog number. On the front cover, there seems to be something covering the right top corner, where the record company logo may have been and was printed over.
The record was most likely pressed in East Berlin, given that Hassan was supposedly a mouthpiece for the Iraqi Socialist movement just a few years before Saddam Hussein came to power. Also, the design of the almost all red cover and the sequence of the catalog number is similar to records from that time period.
But to make matters more puzzling, the liner notes are in Arabic and English:
Ja’afar Hassan is a progressive Iraqi singer who uses songs as a means to express people’s joyness, victories and sadnesses… He sings for the telling masses, thus giving his songs a new spirit… That is what we call political songs. He is considered to be one of the first young Iraqi singers who devoted their songs to serve the mentioned themes
Which begs the question, who was the intended audience for this record? Was it released, or at least distributed, in Iraq? Or, perhaps was this release for Iraqis living outside of Iraq?
If you have any further information, please contact me.
Thanks to Mark Gergis for his help and information.
Catalog number 8 95 012. No other information.