Tantalizing Taste of Music and Peace in Iraq

By ABC News

Sep 14, 2011 12:35pm

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ABC News’ AADEL RASHID REPORTS:

SULIMANIYAH, Iraq

Having a heavy metal rock group named HEVY sounds like an intentional defiance of spelling rules, but in Iraq it is Kurdish for “moon.”

And in Iraq, the group recently played to an audience of 1,400 at the Holy Talari theater of central Sulimaniyah, creating an other worldly atmosphere from the still tense, gun-filled streets of Baghdad.

The group consists of nine musicians and performs  multi-cultural songs. “We played Kurdish folk songs with heavy metal tunes, one Armenian song and songs in the English language,” said Armen, the band’s drummer who is probably considered Iraq’s most famous drummer.

Armen, who is in his fifties have and formed a band back in the 1990s named “Scare Crew,” adds, ” We are one nation, we are the sons of this country. Music has its universal language that unites the people.”

The band’s long haired lead guitar player Shivan said, “I feel extremely happy. The reaction of audience is unbelievable.”

Although the majority of the crowd was of Kurdish origins, four Baghdadi friends have crossed over 360 kilometers  from Baghdad to Sulimaniyah for the show.  ”This is a great day, a great concert,” said Haval Yousif , an Iraqi who plays guitar when not working. ”I feel very happy and proud of the band. We miss such events in Baghdad.”

Ameen and Mahmood whom both play in underground heavy metal bands, said, “We miss such stages back in Baghdad. We only played our music to no more than 200 fans. Here the whole atmosphere is different and the sound quality is as good as heaven.”

The trip from Baghdad to Sulimaniyah was exhausting eight hour grind through security checkpoints, over horrible roads and hours long traffic jams due to road construction.

The moment you lay foot inside Kurdistan you sense that something is different, Yousif said. Bagdad’s ever prsesent soldiers disappear. Most striking to Yousif was that people looked normal enough to dress up the way they want, unlike in Baghdad home where people think twice, especially for women, when they decide what to wear.

Sulimaniyah, situated on the northeastern part of Iraq, is part of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan territory and enjoys a measure of safety that has long disappeared in Baghdad.

Armen, the band’s drummer, said, “We are a multi-cultural band. We mixed and combined heavy metal with Kurdish language and Armenian. I also feel very happy for making people happy, the most important is that the message of music is heard.”

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