Iraqi Folk with Layth
Meet the Artist
Layth Sidiq is an award-winning violinist, vocalist, and composer who has toured the world and performed with major artists such as Simon Shaheen, Danilo Perez, Javier Limon, Jack Dejohnette, Gary Burton, and others. He directs the Arab Music Ensemble at Tufts University as well as the Center for Arabic Culture Children’s Orchestra; he also leads the Layth Sidiq Quartet. In 2018, Layth was one of the winners of the Zbigniew Seifert International Jazz Violin Competition in Poland.
Artist and Genre Overview
Present day Iraq sits on the site of what was ancient Mesopotamia. It is a geographical crossroads connecting the Middle East to North Africa and East Asia, making it a cultural melting pot; its folk music draws from these diverse sources. Many of the folk songs that remain popular today date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Like other forms of Arabic music, Iraqi music uses the maqam system for melodic structure and a set of 38 fundamental rhythms called iqa’at. Unique to Iraqi folk songs is the inclusion of a wordless refrain linking verse and chorus that brings everyone—musicians and audience—together in song.
Layth Sidiq was born in Baghdad; his family left the political and social turbulence in Iraq when he was a year old and moved to Amman, Jordan. Layth began studying violin at the age of four; by the time he was 10, he was performing before the Jordanian royal family. Today he performs a wide range of music, from Classical Arabic music to jazz. As the director of the Arab Music Ensemble at Tufts University and the director of the Center for Arabic Culture Children’s Orchestra, he is committed to keeping the traditions of Arabic music vibrant and alive.
Additional Resources for Teachers
- Son of Tigris, Layth Sidiq
- “Fraghum Bachani,” Hussein al-A’dhami
- Iraqi Titles Playlist, Qatar Digital Library
- “Guli Ya Hilu,” Nathom al-Ghazali
- “Sa’alouni el-Nas,” Fairouz
- “Ghaneeli,” Umm Kulthum
- Visit maqamworld.com for more information on Arabic music theory and practice.
- Visit maqamlessons.com for more information on the maqam system.
- “Iraqi Music from Everyday Life to Mourning,” Hazel Rowland, Culture Trip
- “Dusty Streets and Hot Music in Baghdad: Iraqi Maqam and Chalgi Ensembles,” Rolf Killius, Qatar Digital Library
- Our Iraq, Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project (IARP)
- Hamid Al Saadi at Old Town School of Folk Music, Inner-City Muslim Action Network
New York City Resources
- Bay Ridge, Brooklyn has a significant Arab population