Iraq virtuoso to return to troubled homeland



AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

Published — Sunday 13 January 2013

Last update 13 January 2013 1:29 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

A former Iraqi soldier and prisoner who brought one of the world’s oldest stringed instruments back into the spotlight is set to end his exile and take his haunting songs back home.
Naseer Shamma is something of a global ambassador for the oud — a pear-shaped, six-stringed wood instrument hailing from ancient Mesopotamia — but has not reaped the fruits of fame in his turmoil-hit homeland.
Ten years since the fall of Saddam, however, Shamma has decided to return and end an exile borne out of oppression.
“We need to help, to do something important for Iraqi people and Iraqi culture,” the 49-year-old native of Kut told AFP while on a visit to the Philippines for a concert. Shamma first became entranced with the lute-like instrument when he was a child, later studying with oud master Munir Bashir and at the Baghdad Academy of Music in the late 1980s.
He went on to gain fame across the Arab world as both musician and composer, shocking purists by daring to go beyond tradition to make the instrument — the oldest recorded depiction of which is 5,000 years old — more contemporary, combining it with classical or jazz influences.
Ouds from Baghdad were once renowned for their quality and were exported all over the region, but war and unrest have taken their toll on both musicians and oud-makers.
Conscripted into the army under Saddam’s regime, Shamma served as a soldier during the first US-led war on Iraq in 1991, after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
He left Iraq and moved to Tunisia for five years where he taught music, and then to Egypt, establishing schools called the Arab Oud House to teach people how to play what he calls the “grandfather” of stringed instruments.
His expertise extended to following an ancient manuscript to build his own version of a 9th century eight-stringed oud.
He also devised a one-handed method of playing the instrument, inspired by soldiers who lost limbs during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
“At first, it was impossible. But after three or four months of working, it finally happened,” he said. “If you have an open mind, you can do what you want.”
Even after the fall of Saddam in 2003, the Iraqi musician refused to go home and did not return to his native land until last year when he performed three concerts.
“Life has changed completely, the people have changed too.”
He said he feared cultural values were being eroded. “There is a new kind of people. They have power, they have money and life is confused,” he said.
“I felt this is not my country, this is not my people.”
Almost since the moment the last US troops withdrew in December 2011, the country has been locked in a wave of disputes between political, ethnic and religious factions, with no significant laws passed since polls in March 2010.

Though levels of violence are down from their peak from 2005 to 2008, attacks remain common, particularly with Sunni militants targeting officials, security forces and Shiite Muslims in a bid to destabilize the government and push the country back toward sectarian war.
But Shamma said he aimed to counter such emerging extremism with culture and art, spurred on by the fact that the The Arab League has designated Baghdad as the “Arab Capital of Culture” in 2013.
“There are thousands (of potential students) in Iraq. They contact me by Facebook and on the Internet. They ask me when I will be in Baghdad because they need to learn.
“At my last concert in Baghdad, I had very nice feeling with the audience,” he said. “Now, I can say... there are good moments coming.”

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: In a fresh boost for relations between Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh, the Kingdom has decided to sign a memorandum of understanding on Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) with Dhaka. The Kingdom endorsed a proposal in this regard at a meeting be...
The Indonesian mission is hopeful detained Indonesian pilgrims will be free “very soon.” The mission is trying to persuade Saudi authorities of their nationals’ innocence.Eleven Indonesian pilgrims, who arrived in the holy city of Makkah to perform U...
JEDDAH: Police at King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh arrested a Saudi hacker after a government organization in Al-Leith in Makkah complained that he had hacked its website, according to an online newspaper.Col. Atti Al-Qurashi, spokesman fo...
JEDDAH: The special criminal court has sentenced a former military official to nine years in jail for joining Daesh and traveling to Syria to fight.A fine of SR5,000 was also slapped on him and he was barred from traveling abroad for nine years after...
JEDDAH: Saudi-Indian ties have reached a new high with the arrival of an Indian Air Force (IAF) flying contingent at the King Fahd Air Base in Taif.The mission, comprising more than 100 high-ranking IAF officers and airmen onboard Sukhoi MKI fighter...
RIYADH: A tripartite agreement among the National Handicraft Program, Prisons Department and the Technical and Vocational Training Corp. (TVTC) was recently signed in the presence of Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tou...
JEDDAH: British authorities have opened investigations into the plane crash that led to the death of three members of the Binladin family.Investigations depend on the black box which registers the entire plane’s data, including speed, position of mob...
JAZAN: In a tragic accident, a speeding fuel truck caused four deaths and injuries to many people when it collided head on with five cars on the northern entrance of Abu Areesh area of Jazan, according to a website.The truck deviated from its path an...
JEDDAH: Municipal and Rural Affairs Minister Abdul Lateef Al-Asheikh has directed all the municipal authorities to closely scrutinize the election candidates’ credentials to thwart violation of rules.This is to ensure that the candidates meet all the...
Mohammed Mokammel Hossain, labor consul, Bangladesh Consulate, Jeddah * Which particular aspect of Saudi Arabia you like the most? Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah.* Can you tell us your favorite and oft-repeated Arabic word? Insha’Allah. * W...
RIYADH: Expatriates feel Saudi Arabia is a safer place than their home countries despite the fact that the Kingdom is leading a war against the Yemeni rebels and other terror organizations and a couple of suicide attacks in the recent past. Mahmoud T...
RIYADH: The maximum medical policy or contract for visitors is SR100,000, which covers expenses on emergency treatment, maternity charges, traffic accident injuries, dialysis and medical treatment in or outside the Kingdom. Making the above announce...
JEDDAH: The city and its surrounding areas sweltered on Monday, with the maximum temperature rising to 44 degree Celsius and relative humidity being recorded at 85 percent. The weather department has forecast a similar situation in Jeddah on Tuesday....
JEDDAH: A National Academy for Energy in Dammam and a private technical technical college, both exclusively for women, will be opened in the Easter Province.The General Organization of Technical and Vocational Training is in the process of implementi...
AL-AHSA: Masjid Joatha or Joatha Mosque is a center of attraction in Al-Ahsa with many visitors and tourists thronging the place of worship, which was believed to have been built in the seventh year of Hijri (629 AD).The mosque has been restored as p...

Stay Connected

Facebook