Before Gramophone became EMI, they commissioned a few Westerners to take shopping bags across Iraq for documentation purposes. Thank goodness for sonic archaeology–the records they preserved are brilliant and serve as wonderful reminders of the humanity of a country often viewed under a purely political microscope. There is little music on the planet that matches the intense yearning of the Arabic song,; and the haunting inflections of Said Al Kurdi’s and Sayed Abbood’s voices are perfect examples of the spiritual quest. Equally exhilarating are the instrumentals, be it with the Kurdish violin, the zourna, or the Persian zither, the kanoun. This is a heartbreaking and intense collection.