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BBC Proms 2010: Prom 33 \ Ilham Al Madfai \ Khyam Allami

August 10, 2010

“We had to leave Iraq in 2002,” said the lady sat next to me before tonight’s late night Prom got underway, “Tonight is a big night.”

Even if she hadn’t told me so, it would have been difficult not to conclude the same just from the vibe inside the Royal Albert Hall. Friends, family and acquaintances greeted each other warmly as they sat down. This was more than just a concert for some.

That in itself sealed the deal long before anybody started playing. People disregarded the mobile phone announcement. Some stood and clapped. Camera flashes flickered all around the hall, sending some Royal Albert Hall staff into a flurry of activity. Some people danced. Others waved flags. This was an entirely different crowd. This was someone else’s party.

Despite not necessarily gravitating to Ilham Ad Madfai’s music – or indeed knowing exactly what was going on all the time – it was impossible not to get swept along by the atmosphere. Here was a man in exile singing to people from his homeland … on a Monday night. the spectacle demanded a moment of readjustment after the European Youth Orchestra only a few hours before.

And yes. I may have to had to rely on the man sitting beside me to translate what the song titles were, but that didn’t really matter.

The mood was obvious. I swayed along, tapped my foot and clapped along to the beat from time to time. It was impossible not to.

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