Mideast Youth – Thinking Ahead

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I’ve received permission from Esra’a Al Shafei to reprint an article she wrote on Mideast Youth – Thinking Ahead. Here’s a bit of bio about her:

A 21 year old student from a Kingdom the size of a bathtub in the Gulf: Bahrain. She comes from a long line of lift engineers and personnel managers. She likes hardcore acoustic noise-terror music and people who can take a joke. She thinks college ultimately does not matter in the slightest, but unfortunately, some kind of socio-political imposition of cultural norms forces her to attend. She enjoys drinking flavored milk and writing about herself in 3rd person to remind herself of her existence.”

And, here’s her article, Iraqi Youth Use Music To Deal With Chaos:

Iraqi youth use music to deal with chaos

Author: Esra’a (Bahrain) – June 1, 2008

I’ve always wondered how Iraqi youth must feel now that at least 5 years have passed since the war started, with their situation only getting direr. Religious extremism there is worse than I expected, or at least that’s how the media right now is making it seem. Lately an article from Baghdad by Reuters explores how some youth deal with the war around them; through their passion for music. I found the article very inspiring and touching, especially since it deals with something that all of us take for granted but probably all love and can’t live without: Music. Something Iraqi youth are currently risking their lives being involved in.

“When I play my oud, I defy violence in society,” said Haneen Imad, 17, referring to her traditional Arabic lute, as she played an old folk song on its strings. “When I hear the sound of a helicopter droning over my head, I play louder.”

[…]

Farand Nashaat, 14, hides his trumpet in a rucksack on the way to school so as not to draw attention to his love of music.

[…]

Zuhel Sultan, a 16-year-old pianist, joined the music school when she was 10. Gunmen killed her father four years ago and her mother died of a stroke shortly after, but she says she’s lucky.

“I’m lucky because I have music. With music, I can overcome my difficulties — the dangers of roads, explosions, fearing for relatives,” she said with a broad smile.

[…]

Despite hardships, the school provides all instruments, ballet costumes and musical scores — and offers a cherished escape from daily life for pupils like Husam al-Deen, a 17-year-old cellist.

“My most joyful time is at school,” he said. “It’s a beautiful feeling — we forget the problems on the street, the war, the Americans. We forget everything until we go home.”

I bet after reading this article, you too might feel lucky that something you love so much (if you love music, and I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t) comes so easy in your life while others have to risk their lives just to play it.

For the heavy metal fans out there, there’s a prominent band called Acrassicauda in Baghdad who are seeking official refugee status as what they do is extremely risky as well:

Original members Firas (bass), Tony (lead guitar), Marwan (drums), Faisal (rhythm guitar) and Waleed (lead vocals) were only able to play 3 shows before the war started in 2003. Soon after, Waleed retired from the band and fled the country, leaving Faisal to fill the void of lead singer. Due to increased security precautions throughout Iraq, it became difficult to practice or even get through a show without serious problems. As the situation worsened in Baghdad they began receiving death threats from insurgent groups and religious fundamentalists accusing them of Satan-worship. Eventually, it proved impossible to find any venue that was safe to perform in.

You can read more about them at their blog here. You can see how much they have to deal with just so they can practice and play their music. It’s an increasingly depressing situation for musicians and music lovers in Iraq.

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3 thoughts on “Mideast Youth – Thinking Ahead

  1. Wow, thank you for the wonderful article. It gave me a good shake, the victims become the heroes here in all senses of a word.
    I have read “When I hear the sound of a helicopter droning over my head, I play louder.” and was pierced with the stunning beauty of the spirit of the musician –
    I even felt some sort of good envy to him (sorry for such vocabulary, but that’s the truth). The story inspires the desire to seak for the alike spiritual heigh and thus portrays the safety in my peaceful shelter as the greatest poverty.
    That was the challenging indeed.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Tomas !

    Two extracts stand way out for me:

    “I have read “When I hear the sound of a helicopter droning over my head, I play louder.” and was pierced with the stunning beauty of the spirit of the musician -”

    and:

    “I even felt some sort of good envy to him (sorry for such vocabulary, but that’s the truth). The story inspires the desire to seak for the alike spiritual heigh and thus portrays the safety in my peaceful shelter as the greatest poverty.

    ~Alex

  3. Pingback: Digital Media for Change » Week 2: Freedoms, Vision, and Purple Cowness

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