Saleh and Daoud Al-Kuwaity
The brothers were born in Kuwait to Iraqi parents. Their father, a merchant, moved to Kuwait from the Iraqi city of Basra together with some other 50 Jewish families to form the Iraqi 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.
Success in Iraq
The Iraqi capital, one of the biggest musical centers in the Arab world at the time, welcomed the brothers. Saleh used to play violin, and to compose the works and Daud performed them on oud and vocals. Saleh also started attending music school in Baghdad. There he studied both Arab and western music, and soon began receiving requests from artists who wanted him to write music for them. And so he did including, amongst others, most of the hits of the singer Salima Mourad. He accompanied also the singer Hudeiri Abu Aziz and composed also for Sultana Yussuf and for his engaged girlfriend, the singer Zakia George. In 1933, at the peak of their success, the brothers were approached by one of the greatest names in Arab music, the Egyptian superstar Umm-Kultum. The singer, who rarely recorded works by non-Egyptian composers, contacted Saleh during one of her visits to Baghdad and asked him to write a song for her. The song, " "(Your heart is a rock), became one of the regulars in Um-Kultum's repertoire. Another great Egyptian artist who came to Baghdad and asked to work with the two was Mohammed Abdel Wahab. In 1932 Abed-el-Wahab arrived in Baghdad and asked to meet and play with the brothers. Saleh, who hoped to expand his musical horizons through the meeting with Abed-el-Wahab, was amazed to discover that the great musician actually wanted to learn from Daud and him. Saleh taught Abed-el-Wahab to use the Lahami scale, unique to Selah's music, which was later used in many of Abed-el-Wahab's famous works.
The brother's success didn't go unnoticed by the Iraqi noble ruling class, and soon they became King Faisal's favorite entertainers. They performed for him and composed music for various formal events - the highlight being a piece composed by Saleh for the King's coronation ceremony. In 1936 Iraq's Minister of Education asked Daud and Saleh to take part in establishing Iraq's first radio station. The two became founding members of Iraqi radio and, together with the Egyptian singer Fat'hia Ahmad, performed and played in the initiation ceremony . At the same time they also played on King Faisal's private radio station.
The Al-Kuwaity brothers continued performing and playing throughout the Arab world up until the 1950s, gaining fame and influence with both the mass of listeners and the Iraqi political elite. They recorded hundreds of works, some of them incorporating western elements such as Waltz. In addition to mastering the high Makam style they also wrote songs in the "Aa'thba" style – popular music with themes of sadness and loss. The brothers also composed music for the cinema, including the music for an Arabic version of Romeo and Juliet, and worked with some of the greatest actors in the Arab world. Saleh and Daud performed regularly on Iraqi radio and continued taking part in the kingdom's major national events. They also set up two clubs in which their concerts were held – one for the summer and one for the winter.Salah al Kuweiti composed music also for the first Iraqi movie - Aliya wa'Assam.
Life in Israel
Throughout their career, the brothers never hid their Jewish identity. They 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. In the beginning of the 1950s, they decided to flee persecution in Iraq and join the big wave of emigration from Iraq to the newly established 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 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 the mass flight of Jews from Arab regimes they were sent first to live in a temporary tent camp in Beer Yaakov. Later they moved to the Hatikva quarter of Tel Aviv, where they would play in the Noah café. Upon their arrival Saleh and Daud began playing and performing also in the Arab channel of "The Voice of Israel" (Israeli radio), 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 they gave a regular live radio performance, with thousands of people in Israel and millions in Iraq and Kuwait listening. Thanks to the Israel Broadcasting Authority, dozens of songs they wrote and composed in Israel became hits in the Arab world. Despite leaving their homeland, and the state of war between Israel and the Arab world, the radio in Kuwait and Iraq kept on broadcasting their music – denying them credit thru omission of their name, their Jewish identity, and the fact that Israel gave them refuge.
Al-Kuwaity music and the Arab world
Saleh and Daud's hits are still played on the radio throughout the Arab world 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 a central plank in the canon of Iraqi and Kuwaiti music.
- El-Hajer Mu Ada Ghariba
- Hadri Chai Hadri
- Ma Tqulli Ya Hilu Min Wein Alla Jabek