Sunday, July 15, 2007

Perspective: Iraqis' anthems of suffering

Kazem al-Sahir

As the music video begins, the images play in the grainy, flickering manner of an old movie. A group of men carries a child on a bloody stretcher. A man in a black kaffiyeh calls out as he carries an unconscious boy over a war-torn street.

And, as a heartsick girl in a white dress cries out in front of an ugly column of black smoke, Iraqi singer and international superstar Kazem al-Sahir intones the opening line of "Baghdad Tata la elami" -- "Baghdad Don't Hurt" -- one of the most-played songs these days in his home country: 'The hurting children of Baghdad are asking, for what reason are they being killed?'

The song joins a chorus of new anti-war songs, sung by Iraqis, popularized in the Arab world and spread on the Internet. The tunes and music videos are performed on Middle East concert stages and at studios in Baghdad homes, supported by expatriate music communities in Amman, Jordan, and Damascus, Syria, and hungrily absorbed by Iraqis at home.

The songs take on the blood and violence in ways not seen in Western media, reaching deeper into the war's anguish than most Western protest music. As depicted by these Iraqis, the war is more graphic, heart-rending and frustrating. The videos are more likely to show wounded children, for example, or to describe neighbors settling scores by informing on each other for money.

Read the rest at the Chicago Tribune