Ilham al-Madfai
Ilham al-Madfai (born c. 1942) is an Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

i guitarist, singer and composer. al-Madfai's synthesis of Western guitar
The guitar is a plucked string instrument, usually played with fingers or a pick. The guitar consists of a body with a rigid neck to which the strings, generally six in number, are attached. Guitars are traditionally constructed of various woods and strung with animal gut or, more recently, with...

 stylings with traditional Iraqi music has made him a revered and popular artist in his native country and throughout the Middle East. Beginning in 1999, al-Madfai released a string of albums on EMI's Arabia label, including the platinum self-titled Ilham al-Madfai (1999), Live at the Hard Rock Cafe (2001), Baghdad (2003) and The Voice of Iraq: The Best of Ilham al-Madfai (2005) and Dishdasha (2009). He has been nicknamed 'the Baghdad Beatle'.


Al-Madfai began studying guitar at age twelve. He formed The Twisters in 1961, Iraq's first rock and roll band. Following a three year sojourn in Kuwait
The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the...

 with the group, al-Madfai moved to England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 to complete an engineering degree. While in London, he became a regular at the Baghdad Cafe, where he met fellow musicians Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney
Sir James Paul McCartney, MBE, Hon RAM, FRCM is an English musician, singer-songwriter and composer. Formerly of The Beatles and Wings , McCartney is listed in Guinness World Records as the "most successful musician and composer in popular music history", with 60 gold discs and sales of 100...

, Donovan
Donovan Donovan Donovan (born Donovan Philips Leitch (born 10 May 1946) is a Scottish singer-songwriter and guitarist. Emerging from the British folk scene, he developed an eclectic and distinctive style that blended folk, jazz, pop, psychedelia, and world music...

 and Georgie Fame
Georgie Fame
Georgie Fame is a British rhythm and blues and jazz singer and keyboard player. The one-time rock and roll tour musician, who had a string of 1960s hits, is still a popular performer, often working with contemporaries such as Van Morrison and Bill Wyman.-Early life:Fame took piano lessons from the...

. Returning to Baghdad in 1967, he began to mix Western and Eastern instrumentation and rhythms. Al-Madfai developed a major following in Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 in the 1970s, but Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

's rise to power in 1979 compelled the artist to leave and take construction jobs around the Gulf for much of the following decade.

Al-Madfai returned to Iraq shortly before the First Gulf War and was subsequently banned from leaving the country. He emigrated to Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

 in 1994, where he presently resides. Al-Madfai was granted Jordanian citizenship from King Hussein, for exceptional talents and achievement. On 9 August 2010 he was the featured artist in a late-night prom at the Royal Albert Hall
Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall is a concert hall situated on the northern edge of the South Kensington area, in the City of Westminster, London, England, best known for holding the annual summer Proms concerts since 1941....

in London.

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