Saleh and Daoud Al-Kuwaity
Saleh (b. 1908 d. 1986) and Daud (b. 1910 d. 1976) Al-Kuwaity (Arabic: صالح و داوود الكويتي) were Jewish musicians born in Kuwait as Saleh and Daud Ezra. Having written some of the most famous songs of all time in Arabic music, their music is to this day famous throughout the Arab world, although they are relatively unknown in Israel (where they moved to in the 1950s).
The brothers were born in Kuwait to parents of Iraqi ancestry. Their father, a merchant, moved to Kuwait from the Iraqi city of Basra together with some other 50 Jewish families to form the Jewish community of Kuwait. When Saleh was 10 years old, and Daud 8, they received a gift from their uncle who came back from a business trip to India – a Violin and an Oud. So started their love affair with music, an affair that would one day lead them to become two of the greatest musicians and performers in the history of Iraqi music.
Saleh began studying Kuwaiti music from Khaled Al-Bakar, a famous Kuwaiti Oud player of the time. He soon began to compose his own music. His first song, "Walla Ajabni Jamalec" (By God, I love your beauty), is still heard on Gulf radio stations. While still children, the brothers started performing before dignitaries in Kuwait and making a name for themselves as "wonderkids". Soon enough, Iraqi record companies began recording the brothers and distributing their music throughout the Kingdom of Iraq. Because of Saleh & Daud's success, the Al-Kuwaity family moved back to Basra in Iraq. There Saleh joined the Qanun master Yusuf Zaarur, and learned from him the secrets of writing in the "Makam" style of composition, considered the highest and most prestigious of all styles in Arab music. The brothers started performing in the nightclubs of Basra, and after a while – a result of their growing success – the family moved to Baghdad.
Life in Israel
Throughout their career, the al-Kuwaiti brothers made use of their fame and fortune to help the Jewish community in Iraq, both with material aid for the needy and with influence in the political establishment when necessary, and their being Jews was generally not problematic. Yet, their fortunes changed quickly along with those of Jews in many Arab countries after 1948, with the expansion of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the association of Jews throughout the Arab world with the enemy Israeli state, and the rising tide of exclusive Arab Nationalism. In the beginning of the 1950s, facing increasing persecution in Iraq, the al-Kuwaiti family decided to flee the country and join the big wave of emigration to the State of Israel. In spite of their wealth and of the wide range of possibilities before them Saleh and Daud had to leave everything behind. They emigrated to the young Jewish state without using their significant Iraqi connections to gain permission to take their property with them.
Saleh and Daud's status in Iraq was of no use to them when faced with the difficulties of finding their place in Israel. Their welcome in the new country was harsh, and due to a number of factors. First, along with the masses of Jewish refugees from Arab lands, the brothers were sent first to live in a temporary "Ma'abara" in Beer Yaakov, a transit camp with very poor conditions. Later they moved to the socio-economically disadvantaged Hatikva quarter of Tel Aviv, where they would play in the Noah café. Secondly, the dominant ideology of the Israeli state at that time sought to suppress eliminate vestiges of 'diaspora culture', including Yiddish, Sephardi/Ladino, and Judeo-Arabic music. Thus, the mainstream Hebrew-language radio, which at that time was entirely state-owned and wished to promote only Western-sounding music, did not play any Middle Eastern music, even that Jewish performers of Arabic music such as the al-Kuwaiti brothers, their Iraqi contemporary Salima Murad, Salim Halali (an Algerian- and French-Jewish star), Laila Mourad (an Egyptian Jewish singer and actress), or Zohra Al Fassiya (a famous Jewish singer in Morocco).
Despite the prejudice against their music in Israel, Saleh and Daoud found a small outlet for their music on the Arabic network of "The Voice of Israel" shortwave radio service (which broadcast to Arab countries), soon becoming two of its leaders. They performed as guest soloists with the Arabic orchestra of the Israeli Radio led by Zuzu Mussa. For many years the al-Kuwaiti brothers gave a regular live radio performances, with thousands of Arabic speaking people in Israel and millions in Iraq and Kuwait listening. Thanks to the Arabic language shortwave broadcasts of the Israel Broadcasting Authority (which no longer exist), dozens of songs they wrote and composed in Israel also became hits in the Arab world. In fact, despite the constant state of war between Israel and most of the Arab world, the state-controlled radio in Kuwait and Iraq kept on broadcasting their music; however, while earlier generations of Arab listeners had been familiar and comfortable with the brothers and their Jewish identity, Arabic radio after the 1970s, increasingly under the control of nationalist movements such as the Ba'ath Party, began to change this by omitting their name, their Jewish identity, or their Israeli citizenship from credits, causing this history to be forgotten.
Al-Kuwaity music and the Arab world
Saleh and Daoud al-Kuwaiti's hits are still played on the radio throughout the Arab world today, and they have fans among both the Iraqi and Kuwaiti people and with Iraqi and Kuwaiti expatriates throughout the world. Songs such as "Foug el-Nakhal" (Above the palm trees), "El-Hajer Mu Ada Ghariba" (Neglect isn't a foreign custom), "Hadri Chai Hadri" (Make the tea), "Ma Tqulli Ya Hilu Min Wein Alla Jabek" (Tell me, beautiful one, from where did the Lord bring you?) and "Walla Ajabni Jamalek" ( ), are heard daily throughout the Arab world and are central planks in the canon of Iraqi and Kuwaiti music. In fact, a number of their songs are amongst the most famous of classical Arabic music to this day.
- El-Hajer Mu Ada Ghariba
- Hadri Chai Hadri
- Ma Tqulli Ya Hilu Min Wein Alla Jabek