Ilham al-Madfai (Arabic: إلهام المدفعي) (born c. 1942) 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 platinumeponymous 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. 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. 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.
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