Munir Bashir Group
June 26, 2004 - 8:00 pm

Since his death in 1997, Munir Bashir has been a primary source of inspiration for many musicians, including his own son Omar Bashir and his uncle Hisham Sharaf, director of the “Munir Bashir Group” composed of 12 oudists and 4 percussionists. .

Hisham Sharaf is also the conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, the first symphony orchestra in the Arab world created in 1959.

With the “Munir Bashir Group”, Hisham Sharaf perpetuates the Iraqi tradition of the oud (which was discovered in Mesopotamia, ancient Iraq, almost 3000 years BC) with the compositions of the undisputed master of the lute Arabic, Munir Bashir.

Munir Bashir was born in 1930 in Mosul, Iraq to a father of Syriac Orthodox origin and a Kurdish mother. His father, a carpenter, was also a singer and oud player. He encouraged the musical inclination of the young Munir, whom he enrolled at the age of 6 at the Baghdad Institute of Music. He gave his first concerts in 1953 on a 5-string oud augmented by a bass.

The addition of the bass string as well as two openings below the main opening on the oud are a bit of Munir Bashir’s trademark.

Munir then moved to Hungary where he obtained his doctorate in musicology at the University of Budapest in 1960.

This teaching endowed him with a very Western rigor, quite unusual in the Arab artistic circle of the time.

He encouraged him to renew the approach to the oud, in particular by taking it out of the orchestral context in which it had been installed for centuries: Munir Bashir therefore imposed the solo oud recital, basing the essential of his discourse musical on a free and meditative interpretation of the classical “maqam” of Iraq. His favorite style concerns improvised pieces (taqsim).

Munir Bashir will be appointed director of music at the Iraqi Ministry of Culture in 1982. A career that ended with the first Gulf War in 1991 and exile began between Amman and Budapest where he will die on exactly his sixty-seventh birthday.