Singer Aseel Hameem talks about the enduring appeal of Iraqi music and why it endures

Singer Aseel Hameem says the emotional weight and exploratory lyrics of modern Iraqi songs are responsible for their regional popularity.

talking NationwideThe Baghdad-born singer attributes her regional stardom in part to Arab listeners seeking more depth from today’s Arab pop music.

“The message is a key element of Iraqi songs because the singer always has something to convey,” Hamim said. “This is music that is significant because it is part of the rich storytelling history at the heart of Iraqi culture.”

This enduring appeal is evident through international touring and the number of streams recorded by generations of Iraqi artists.

2019, Hamim’s Heartbreak Ballad Al Mafrood “Resilience in the Way of Betrayal” is Saudi Arabia’s most played song on Spotify, according to the platform. Hiwaya by Spotify Iraqi The playlist, which features the likes of Hameem, Rahma Riad and Nabeel Al Adeeb, was also the fifth most streamed playlist last year.

This success is also reflected in Hameem, 39, who completed a solo tour in the United States with the famous Iraqi singer Kadim Al Sahir.

Hamim’s international profile was further boosted last month when her photo appeared on a Spotify digital billboard in New York’s Times Square. She is an ambassador for the platform’s Equality Arab initiative, which aims to highlight the work of female artists from the Middle East and North Africa region.

With all this momentum, Hamim wasted no time in releasing six songs this year. Four of them are included on her new EP Tekfa La Taz’al.

“In a way, it’s a continuation of what I do and what audiences expect from me,” she said. “At the same time it’s an evolution because I’m trying to show the diversity of Iraqi popular music.”

This can be heard in different percussion elements Warda Hamra and Bakhtasrak, The EP’s title track highlights the genre’s ability to embrace new styles with its award-winning jazz horns and cinematic strings.

Hamim traces her eclectic style to her father, composer Karim Hamim. While the two never officially collaborated, people often turned to his keen ear for career advice.

“He really shaped my personality and character,” Hamim said. “He always told me that if you don’t like a song, don’t choose it, even if I wrote it. He told me that if I wanted to be a successful artist, sentimentality should never be in my play a role in decision-making.

Still, performing her songs in front of the vast Iraqi diaspora from the UAE to the United States was a bittersweet experience.

“This is how many Iraqis feel. When I’m out and hear an Iraqi accent on the street, my heart beats faster,” she admits.

“When I compete abroad, the Iraqi crowd is very attentive and you can feel the longing and longing for home. I’m lucky enough to be on stage and make that distance seem shorter, even if it’s just for a little while.

Partly for this reason, Hamim believes that the future of Iraqi music is secure, with equal roles for listeners and artists.

“It is the responsibility of all of us to keep this great tradition alive,” she said. “I know I take every performance very seriously, whether it’s a concert or a National Day celebration, and I treat it with care. It’s the least I can do.

Updated: June 6, 2024 5:10 am

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