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Philadelphia, April 24, 2017 – On May 21, Intercultural Journeys brings oud player Rahim AlHaj to Philadelphia to perform Letters from Iraq, a poignant musical journey through the letters and memories of eight Iraqi citizens. Against the backdrop of increasingly inflammatory rhetoric surrounding both immigrants and the Middle East, AlHaj’s performance serves as a timely reminder of the human face of war.

AlHaj was born in Baghdad, Iraq and graduated in 1990 from the Institute of Music in Baghdad with a diploma in composition. After being imprisoned twice for his political outspokenness, AlHaj fled Iraq in 1991. Pursued by the Mukhbarat, Iraq's secret police, AlHaj lived in both Jordan and Syria, and was eventually granted asylum in the United States. In 2014, after his first trip back to his homeland in over a decade, AlHaj began writing Letters From Iraq. Moved by the heartbreaking letters he received from Iraqi women and children, AlHaj portrays the contents of the letters -- detailed narratives of the fall of Saddam Hussein and the sectarian violence that stemmed from war -- through eight individual pieces for oud and string quintet. Letters from Iraq, by turns despairing and defiant, weaves together a picture of a country and its citizens gripped between a crisis of the present and a hope for the future.

AlHaj's remarkable story was chronicled in a 2008 New York Times piece titled "A Fabled Iraqi Instrument Thrives in Exile." Highlights of AlHaj’s performance career include 11 albums, two Grammy nominations, and a popular Tiny Desk Concert (NPR). He has performed with artists ranging from R.E.M.'s Peter Buck to jazz guitarist Bill Frisell to the Kronos Quartet. In 2015, he received the National Endowment for the Arts' National Heritage Fellowship.


Letters from Iraq

Sunday, May 21, 2017 - 7pm

Ibrahim Theater at International House, 3701 Chestnut Street

Tickets for the performance are $15 for General Admission, $10 for IHP members, and $8 for students. To purchase tickets, visit or call 215-387-5125, ext. 2.


Rahim AlHaj, virtuoso oud musician and composer, was born in Baghdad, Iraq and began playing the oud at age nine. Alhaj studied under the renowned Munir Bashir, as well as Salim Abdul Kareem at the Institute of Music in Baghdad, Iraq. Mr. AlHaj won various awards at the Conservatory and graduated in 1990 with a diploma in composition. He also holds a degree in Arabic Literature from Mustunsariya University in Baghdad. In 1991, after the first Gulf War, 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 US in 2000 as a political refugee and has resided in Albuquerque, NM ever since. AlHaj became a US citizen on August 15, 2008.

AlHaj has released eleven CDs, is a two-time Grammy-nominee, and has recorded and performed with a wide variety of musicians including genre-busting American guitarist Bill Frisell, modern accordion innovator Guy Klucevsek, Indian sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan, and indy-rock pioneers REM. AlHaj was awarded the prestigious US Artist Ford Fellowship Grant in 2009 and received the National Endowment for the Arts' National Heritage Fellowship in 2015.



Intercultural Journeys uses the arts to promote peace and greater understanding between people of diverse backgrounds, faiths, and cultures with the aim of catalyzing social change and awareness. Founded in 2002, Intercultural Journeys believes that performances, done for the purpose of bringing people together that might otherwise be in conflict, give us the opportunity to play a small part in contributing to world peace.