Fathallah Ahmed, one of Iraq’s most celebrated composers and the leader of Kadim Al Saher’s band, died on Wednesday after a long battle with Covid-19. He was 64.
The Zeedini Ishqan musician was admitted to a hospital in Dubai months ago. However, his health continued to deteriorate.
Rumours of Ahmed’s death began circulating in Iraqi media earlier this month. However, they were denied by Ahmed’s son.
News of the maestro's death was confirmed on Wednesday by the Iraqi Artists Syndicate.
Born in the city of Kirkuk in 1957 to Turkmen parents, Ahmed joined the Turkmen National Ensemble at an early age. The experience had a profound impact on his compositional approach as he would go on to incorporate elements of Turkmen music in many of his compositions.
Ahmed was also known to have a stringent work ethic, often playing his cello for 12 hours a day with the intention of joining the Iraqi Symphony Orchestra, which he did in 1977.
He played an active musical part on an academic and governmental level. He worked at the Iraqi Department of Culture and Tourism, and lectured in several universities. He was also the dean of the Institute of Music Studies in Iraq.
Ahmed is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Arab singers, including Al Saher. He composed many of the Iraqi singer's most recognisable melodies – including Qooli Uhibuka (Say I Love You) and Fi Madrasat Al Hob (In the School of Love) – and toured with him across the world.
Ahmed left Baghdad years ago, settling in the UAE. He composed several symphonies while living in the country, including a piece written in tribute to the Emirates.
In 2019, he chaired the jury of the talent show Al Zaman Al Jameel (The Beautiful Time), which aired on Abu Dhabi TV.
According to the Arabic wing of Russia Today, Ahmed had recently finished arranging a symphony based on the poem The Epic of Gilgamesh, with the intention of having Al Saher sing over it.
Tributes for the Iraqi composer have been published on social media from peers and fans alike. Iraqi oud virtuoso Naseer Shamma wrote on his Twitter page that, although he was unfortunately expecting news of Ahmed's death, it still came as a shock.
"God bless you my great friend," he wrote. "You are gone physically, but you will always be with us."