My dad David Muallem and I have always had a deep bond. It started when I was playing basketball as a kid and he was managing the kid's team where I played. he would take us out to an oriental restaurant to eat something after a game we had won and accompany us to other games.
I remember the days when Dad would listen on his old reel-to-reel tape to Umm Kultoum concerts he recorded at the time. Then I did not know this music and did not know how to appreciate it. I would listen to rock and pop music of that era. things like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Bowie, etc. Today I understand that this music I hated at the time made me later become a professional musician.
I always remember that my dad loved music. It was not just oriental music on which he grew up but also classical music and other styles of music. He absorbed the love for music and the oriental Maqam (music scale) from his grandfathers in Iraq. One was a cantor in a synagogue and the other is a member of the parliament in Baghdad. Dad would always talk about the memories he had with his grandfathers. Sometimes they would invite the legendary Chalri Baghdad ensemble to perform on the big patio of their house. The ensemble was composed of the best Jewish musicians of Iraq and my father as a child would listen, hypnotized to their playing until dawn.
Dad studied and played the violin and although he did not make playing the violin a carrier he was one of the founders of the first Philharmonic orchestra in Baghdad.
(Produced by the Babylonian Jewry center on the occasion of awarding the lifetime achievement award to Father)
In 1950 he immigrated to Israel where he met and married my mother Janet. He served in the Israeli police, studied law and became a lawyer, and later was appointed a judge. One day when I came back from my military service on the weekend and slept deeply on Saturday morning I heard Dad taking his old violin back in his hands and trying to produce some sounds and at that moment it all started again.
Dad learned to play the violin again but this time in an oriental style. He then took his knowledge and passion to the world of Maqam and wrote for eight years the Maqam book which was published in Hebrew and English. The book was released as a part of the curriculum in the education system in Israel. the book has served and continues to serve hundreds of musicians, teachers, and academics in Israel and around the world for many years and has won praises from professionals in the field.
I started playing music at a relatively late age. I was already twenty-three when I started learning Latin percussion and at the same time, I completed my communication studies in Tel-Aviv. I then signed for a law degree and dad thought I would follow him but twice I let him down and canceled my registration at the last moment. Needless to say, dad was disappointed. I clearly remember sitting on the bench in the Suzanne Dallal cultural center in south Tel-Aviv and dad telling me in Hebrew spiced with Arabic " Ya ebni! do what you want but please don't ask me for money anymore!" (Registration fee:)
Father and I in my childhood
I had no academic training or connections in the world of music so when one day at the age of twenty-six I announced to my parents that "from now on I'm a musician!" they were really surprised and worried about my future. anyway, time passed and I realized how much both of them love music. Dad would visit my concerts in Israel and when I moved to Turkey both of them came from to time to watch my projects. Dad would like also like to watch the rehearsals and was very involved. Sometimes he would comment on something he didn't like or will compliment one of the musicians who played beautifully. Whenever he was near music his eyes lit and sometimes even shed a tear.
My dad passed away just before his ninetieth birthday. Fate wanted and I got infected with covid on my way to visit him after many months. It only became clearer to me after a few days of being near my dad. It was later revealed that dad had contracted from me and although he was vaccinated, he eventually passed away at the hospital from a bacterium that had infiltrated his body, so doctors said.
Dad was a kind-hearted man that everyone respected and loved. Shortly after his death, I sat down and composed "Father" to honor his memory and heritage. A number of my close friend's musicians volunteered to record this music in Israel and Turkey. Each of them knew my father and had different experiences with him over the years.
Dad listened and enjoyed music even in his last hours and now he probably sits somewhere in heaven, closes his eyes, listens to the music, and sheds tears of joy.