Dr. Yehuda Kamari, a specialist in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, is also endowed with a love of Arabic music that led him to establish an orchestra, Firkat Al Nur, with whom he hopes to appear in Egypt and Iraq.

Firkat Al Nur plays unique classical Arabic music


Copyright: Debbie Hill

When Dr. Yehuda Kamari plays the oud with the orchestra he formed, Firkat Al Nur, it seems that Arabic music has always flowed in his blood, that he lives and breathes this music as much as his cultural heroes in this genre – among the most well known artists and composers in Iraq and Egypt.

The son of a Persian family, he grew up playing Neil Young and Joni Mitchell on his guitar. However, as a medical student, he began playing the oud and was exposed to classical Arab music. He was spellbound. Salim Al Nur, an Iraqi Jew and one of the greatest composers in Iraq in the 1940s, was Dr. Kamari’s teacher and imbued him with a great love for Iraqi music, and here begins his story.

Dr. Kamari is a busy doctor – a cardiovascular specialist who also manages a research laboratory at the Sheba Medical Center. His teacher, Salim Al Nur, was a gifted composer Before immigrating to Israel from Iraq, who wrote his first song at the age of 17 for Salima Murad – one of the great singers of Arabic music.

Kamari would sit for hours with Al Nur and listen to Abdel Wahab, Umm Kulthum, Fairuz, learning the language and playing Iraqi and Egyptian classical music. During these sessions, Kamari was also exposed to works written Al Nur himself, who specialized in the genre called Sama’i, pieces composed of five verses of ten beats each. According to Dr. Kamari, Al Nur is a musical genius.

"His compositions are astonishingly beautiful, sophisticated and innovative," says Dr. Kamari, "and since he has not reached the public consciousness, I felt a duty to take this fantastic musical material and do something with it. I realized that this was world-class music that would be lost if I didn’t record the music. For me, it’s like finding unknown works of Mozart."

When Dr. Kamari realized that a large part of the works of this "Iraqi Mozart" had not been written down and documented, he decided to devote himself to this unique conservation project. Together with Jewish and Arab musicians from Israel, he formed an ensemble which began to piece together and document music never before recorded. In 2005 new ensemble performed a concert in homage to Salim Al Nur and in 2009 issued a disc entitled "Al Nur" presenting the lost works of the composer.
Through Facebook, Dr. Kamari has become exposed to fans all over the world, and is very flattered by warm responses he receives from the Arab world. "Thanks to the exposure through endless social networks, I have many friends in the Arab world and I hope to increase this exposure." He also receives a lot of positive feedback from Jewish and Arab musicians.

Firkat Al Nur consists of 13 musicians who speak Iraqi, Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian Arabic. They are among the leading musicians in the genre of classical Arabic and Oriental music in Israel today. The audience that comes to listen to their music is composed of both Arabs and Jews, religious and secular.

"It is important for us to show the Arab world that not only Western culture is alive and kicking in Israel. Music connects people, it is a bridge of understanding and dialogue. We represent all those who dream and breathe Arab culture and classical Arabic music."