The Best of Ali Al Aisawi

Ali al-Aisawy Podcastعلي العيساوي

His recordings can sometimes be as harsh as his looks. You wouldn't know it by looking at him, but Ali al-Aisawi (علي العيساوي) is one of the biggest names in modern Iraqi music. The son of poet Mohamed al-Aisawi, Ali rose to fame in the early 1990s and was one of the major figures of the music scene in Iraq and the Gulf throughout the decade, not just as a singer, but sometimes as a musician and composer of popular folk music as well.

At first the listener might be turned off by the use of tacky drum machines and comically fake-sounding synthesized instruments, but those quickly becoming endearing accents that give the music a sort of grittiness and authenticity that only comes with otherwise talented artists recording an album on a minimal budget.

This podcast contains a mix of some of the most exemplary songs of Iraqi music star Ali al-Aisawi, who was one of the most successful domestic artists in Iraq until the late-Saddam Husseim regime in the 1990s. You could call it pop, but if you listen to the words and hear the vocal talent that he possesses, you realize that this music has little to do with pop music as we know it. I've tried to provide brief explanations of each track if not translations:

Track List

1. A Scorpion Bit Me in my Chest (0:11) (translation available)
عقرب بصدري لسعني

This is a folk song native to Iraq and East Syria that seems to be about a young guy stuck out in the desert who is miserable and missing the one he loves. This version includes a reference to Baghdad, which makes it kind of a tribute to the Iraqi capital at the same time.

2. My darling, what happened to you? (4:52)
حبيبي ما جرالك

He's asking what happened and why his lover wants to leave him, asking for forgiveness.

3. I Swear I Don't Want Them Anymore (8:35)
ولله بعد ماريدهم

His loved ones have wronged him and he no long wants anything to do with them.

4. Forgive me (13:28) (translation available)

One of the more unique musical compositions in the bunch, this song has been recorded by more than one artist. Like so many Arabic songs, it's about separation and suffering, and in classic Iraqi fashion poetry is interspersed in between the verses.

5. Oh Lover of Nice Looking Guys (22:08)
يا عاشق الحلوين

This song is about a lover who is unfaithful and he asks "how can a lover betray his/her mate?"

6. Breaking Free from the Illusion (26:37) (translation available)
اكسر قيود الوهم

This is a Mawal, which means he sings something closer to poetry, and it is a slower more freely flowing vocal performance. It's being done with someone once you've realized how much they've hurt you.

7. Young (31:43)

It's about being young and in love and not caring about anything but that.

8. You Couldn't (37:45)
ما تقدر

I'm not gonna pretend I know exactly what he's saying, but he's saying to his lover that he doesn't want her anymore and she can't get him back.

9. I Swear on My House (40:47) (translation available)
وحق البيت

This is also adapted from an Iraqi folk song about being totally infatuated with someone and expressing it in very interesting, untranslatable ways.

10. Booya (44:39)

A song about what else, being sad because he's separated from his loved ones.

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