Ilham al-Madfai

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Ilham al-Madfai (إلهام المدفعي)
Ilham Al Madfai in 2005.jpg
Al Madfai in a 2005 performance in Glastonbury, England
Background information
Also known as The Baghdad Beatle
Born c. 1942
Origin Baghdad, Iraq
Occupation(s) Musician, composer
Instruments Vocals, guitar
Years active 1961–present
Labels EMI, Virgin

Ilham al-Madfai (Arabic: إلهام المدفعي‎‎) (born c. 1942)[1] is an Iraqi guitarist, singer and composer. al-Madfai's synthesis of Western guitar stylings with traditional Iraqi music has made him a popular performer in his native country and throughout the Middle East. Beginning in 1999, al-Madfai released a string of albums on EMI's label, including his platinum[citation needed] eponymous debut, 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). In 2009, Al-Madfai released Dishdasha. His Western-inspired compositions led to a nickname; "The Baghdad Beatle".


Al-Madfai began studying guitar at age twelve. He formed The Twisters in 1961, Iraq's first rock and roll band.[2] Following a three-year sojourn in Kuwait with the group, al-Madfai moved to England to complete an engineering degree. While in London, he became a regular at the Baghdad Cafe, where he met fellow musicians Paul McCartney, Donovan and Georgie Fame.[2] Returning to Baghdad in 1967, he began to mix Western and Eastern instrumentation and rhythms. Al-Madfai developed a major following in Iraq in the 1970s, but Saddam Hussein'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 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 in London.[3]

Selected discography[edit]

  • Ilham al-Madfai (1999) EMI
  • Live at the Hard Rock Cafe (2001) EMI
  • Baghdad (2003) EMI
  • The Voice of Iraq: The Best of Ilham al-Madfai (2005) EMI
  • Dishdasha (2009) Virgin


  1. ^ "Ilham al-Madfai: Triumph of the Baghdad Beatle", The Independent (16 July 2003).
  2. ^ a b Robin Denselow, Straight Outta Baghdad, The Guardian (11 June 2004).
  3. ^ "Prom 33: BBC Radio 3 World Routes Academy", What's On / Proms by Day 9 August 2010, BBC Proms

External links[edit]