Thursday, June 3, 2010

Baghdad: More Than 50 Years Ago

Majid Kakka and Haithem Yousif 2009

I come to you
My eyes will answer for me
I did not sing for you
It is the wound inside of me

Not my fault to leave you behind
Believe me, my Home
I had no other choice

I miss to be in Baghdad
To be in al karrada
and in al mansoor

These are from the lyrics of this beautiful song by Iraqi singers and musicians Majid Kakka and Haitham Yousif.

Majid Kakka (on the left of the picture) is known for his wonderful work with Bells band in mid 1980's. I would never think of anyone who could re-produce Iraqi Maqam and traditional Baghdadi songs the way he did during that time.

Haitham Yousif (on the right), known as "the Prince of Love" (he issued an album with the same title). He is known for his warm voice and beautiful melodic songs. He reached stardom in the early 1990's.

The song is about Iraq, Iraq that will never be forgotten in spite of all the years living abroad. The song reflects little details on their feeling towards their home country, but with deep lyrics that would bring a lot of flash backs to any Iraqi.

The lyrics of the song are by Hazim Jabir, the music composed by Haitham Yousif, the music arrangement, mixing and mastering are by Majid Kakka. The song is recorded and filmed at Bells studio in Detroit, USA.

Bells Studios? this is Majid Kakka own studio, right?

Both are considered masters in their genre in using synthesizers in their songs. This musical style became the dominant in Iraq since the early 1980's and it replaced gradually the bands in Iraqi music circles and sites such as Al Seed or Al Ilwaiya clubs in Baghdad, until it became rare to see a band with a drummer and bass guitar. The development of Iraqi music is not the subject of this post, but not a lot of Iraqis liked the transition to using synths in Iraqi songs. However, it did not ruin it, but surely there were some who abused it.

I loved it in the beginning when Yousif enters the studio and the way Majid Kakka greets him with "ahlaaaaaaaaaan" with a strong hand shake that ended in a big warm hug.

The song in total is very catchy, and one of the reasons I guess is because of the combination of the two voices: it added more to the beauty of this song.

More on artists can be found on their respective websites - unfortunately, Majid Kakka and Bells band website is down. However, Haitham Yousif's website is running and can be visited here

Listen, watch and enjoy

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Abdel Karim Qasim

After hearing and reading about the news recently circulated all over the world wide web about Iraqi
Prime Minister, Noory al Maliki, and his salary, I thought of putting pictures of another Iraqi leader, Abdel Karim Qasim

Does that ring a bell?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Old Iraqi Adverts

I got the below pictures from different websites, forums and via email.

I am not going to repeat the regret all people expressed by comparing yesterday to today, I just enjoyed and shared with myself the mourning on what Iraq was and what has become.







Ads6 Ads7












Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Albaghdadia… Enemy of the State

Among the most favorite Iraqi satellite channels in my list I would put albaghdadia on the top of such list - not that I consider other channels to be bad, but I love albaghdadia and have great respect to its staff. Albaghdadia is transparent, direct to the point, realistic because it reflects the actual status of Iraq and the Iraqis. It is straightforward because there it is bias to a political party or siding with some political figure or movement. Albaghdadia has always been a great source of the highest level of quality information, a source to disclose secrets, ready to jump in where the challenges and risks exist. I love albaghdadia for Abdel hameed al-Sayeh and Azal al-Sayyab’s excellent (and emotional) presentation on TV. I love and respect them for the beautiful language they use on their shows: the combination of perfect use of Classic Arabic language and literature with a cute flavor of southern Iraqi accent. I love Albaghdadia for the brilliant Nouran Hassan, whether on daily news bulletin appearance or when she summarizes the week events on her show “End of the Week” – this is the correct translation, guys! I love albaghdadia because it has the black-comedy, the honest critism of everything related to Iraq as I watch every Monday “The Conversation of the Deaf “ show, and its figure of Daoud Al-Farhan. I love albaghdadia for the down to earth attitude coming with the response and remarks from Anas Al Bayaty on “one hour and a half” show, and his innocent laugh while addressing a guest in the studio or by satellite. The above are drops in a sea regarding the reasons why I love watch this Iraqi channel.

I love albaghdadia because this channel stands by the common Iraqi citizen, and reflects the real situation of Iraqis in Iraq and abroad: interviews with Iraqi expatriates, present on most occasions and events outside Iraq - I attended a number of events in the Netherlands where coincidently seeing Albaghdadia crew filming and making interviews with people. This brings me to the topic of today: the early morning daily show “Pleasant Morning for Iraq”. I watch a replay of this show every night at around 11:30 – due to difference in time zone I cannot watch it when it’s aired live around 7am.

What happened yesterday to Minas Al-Suhail and the crew of Albaghdadia while doing live coverage for “Pleasant Morning for Iraq” from Baghdad’s district of “Al Qahira” was outrageous and frustrating. It is not the first time that one of albaghdadia reporters and crew being harassed and even beaten up by personnel from Baghdad Operations Command. But, yesterday’s assault was different, first because the two men attacked al-Suhail and his colleagues were from the Terrorism Combat Force, an entity belongs to the military intelligence within the ministry of interior; second, the assaulters called albaghdadia journalists and cameramen while attacking them with “Ba’thists”!

Is this enough or do I have to explain where those two assaulters came from??

May I say that what happened to Minas and his colleagues is some kind of reflection to the pro-elections-mood by some figures from the government who come out on TV with nervous (and angry, sometimes) faces threatening or warning when voting results appears to go in opposite direction to what they desire?

Why beating up a reporter?? What guilt did he make? Is it listening to the suffering of people doomed by its rulers for decades are considered as guilt?

Why beating up a reporter?? Is it wrong for a reporter to reveal the truth about how the country is still being looted by all sorts of scumbags, obvious from the bad services, well, by the lack of services on every street and house? It seems that it is so insulting for a government official to see a man in his 60’s presenting his case to million of viewers. The insulting part is not because an old man is complaining; it is because the complaint is so righteous that an official will not be able to listen, will not be able even to find a hole to hide in.

Why beating up a reporter?? Obviously the answer can take us back in time when Saddam used to rule the country. Saddam planted the seeds for bringing up a violent culture, where the use of hand and pistol dominated the behavior of many in dealing with any damn situation. Someone would argue that Iraqi society is just bloody or violent (I heard that before), but I simply do not agree, we were not born with a pistol in one hand. We were not by instinct ready to go on the streets of Najaf and start bad mouthing, slapping and kicking the hell out of the unarmed. The resemblance between the old times under the former regimes and now are strong, and there is a common thing between now and then: the presence of a camera...

Then, the camera was used by the ruler to put fear in the hearts of people –Saddam filmed his fake coup attempt back in 1979, and his brother filmed his own rants and bad mouthing during a big meeting for the Ministry of Interior.

Now, the camera is in the hands of others, the media, the people, and it is revealing the truth on daily basis. It is disclosing incompetence, and makes the voice of the citizen heard, loud and clear.

Minas Al-Suhail, Ali Al-Khalidy or Haider Nasir, Mustafa Ibraheem, Hussain Asad and many others like them, from Albaghdadia or any other honest TV channel, are names I greatly admire. They deserve a medal, not a dirty hand trying to stop the truth from coming out.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Al Amiriya Shelter - Documentary

I received an email from Sahab bringing my attention to Al-Amiriya: The Shelter.

Sahab, for those who still don't know is one of few committed and honorable people around documenting and showing the truth about atrocities too place against the Iraqi people, focusing on the shelters of death, one of these shelters is Al Amiriya - first time I wrote about this tragedy was last year, then I wrote about the interview Al Baghdadia channel conducted with families of victims.

The documentary is made by Siham Jouhari, a French flim maker of Morrocan origin, known for the award winning short movie “Faces of wrath”, about the war on Gaza in 2009.

I took a look at the website but could not find any news or a source to the movie.

Anyone knows about the movie, please let me know.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Kadim Al Sahir - Alrasm bil Kalimat (Album Review)


I bought the album when I was in Abu Dhabi last year October. It was around that time when the album first came out. During my three weeks stay the only music played at the Abu Dhabi Carrefour super markets were songs from that album.

Kadim Al Sahir is a pioneer and made his mark making songs with lyrics in Classical Arabic. I don't listen frequently to songs from such a genre, so I have to be careful with what I say about Al Sahir songs. Having said that, it does not mean I did not enjoy songs like “Hel Endaki Shak?” (Do You Have Doubts?) and “Ikhtary” (Make A Choice) from this master of profession Iraqi singer. Speaking of those two songs, mind you there is some 9 years gap between each song when I first listened to them, but both carry some special magic formula – here I am not making comparison or to say that they are better or worse than other Al Sahir songs like “Layla” (not Eric Clapton), or “Madrasa Al Hob” (School of Love), or even “Qooly Ohiboka” (Say You Love Me)…etc

Now that I talked about how I see Al Sahir’s music, I want to say that the magic formula I just mentioned is felt with a big dose on the new album, “Alrasm Bil Kalimat” (English: Drawing with Words), especially on the title song, but lets stop here, I will talk about this song in a bit.

All songs on “Alrasm Bil Kalimat” album were composed by Al Saher himself, except for “Al Jareeda” (The Newspaper), a song with lyrics written in Gulf-Region dialect, and composed by Mohammed Shafiq, A Saudi musician who worked in the past with Al Sahir on songs from previous albums.

The album kicks off with “habeebety” (My beloved). The lyrics of the song are taken from a poem written by the legendary Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani. Not my favorite song from the album, but I liked most the use of wa-wa guitar effects. From reading the lyrics and listening to the music I imagined a man deep in love with his woman, do passionate about every move, look, touch, even with the way she dance. The video clip of the song translated the song in the best way possible and as I anticipated. The second song is the orchestra like hit single “Al Mahkama” (The Court). This is an epic song, and to many it is the surprise of the album. The song is a duet with Moroccan female singer Asma Lemnawar. I read somewhere that the song originally made to have Al Sahir singing the song with Syrian female singer, Asala but due to financial differences such cooperation was doomed. Anyway, If these rumors were true, the second best choice is resulted in a masterpiece. The lyrics of the song is written by the great poet Kareem Al Iraqi, a man known for his god-gifted ability to bring words to live with deep words and passionate sentences. No one could or can beat this man in such a style. The song tells the story of a man and a woman standing virtually before the judge and pleading for justice, each presenting his case and tell stories of pain, agony, jealousy, bad friendship, and what was in the past and what has become… but… did they lost the love they had for each other?… contradiction within human nature... happy ending?

Below is the official video clip of the song, which was filmed in Ukraine, and directed by Hussain D’ebis.

There are six songs from the album performed with Iraqi dialect. Having that number of songs in Iraqi dialect has indeed boosted my support for this album, not being bias here, but the music is so beautiful that no one can just dare to skip from one song to the other. Each song carried a different flavor, musically, of course: there is the traditional Choby dance on “600 boosa” (600 Kisses). I was expecting the song to be played live when I attended Al Sahir's concert a couple of months ago in Brussels, but that did not happen. “Daggeet ween il bab” (Knocking the Door) is another Iraqi dialect song and have the same feeling as songs from al maqam al iraqi songs, such as "Gulli ya Hilo" or "Ghali wil Nabi Ghali". Al Sahir does not need to prove anything to anyone, but putting traditional musical elements to a newly created song like this is another living testimony of his genius. The next song, “Iskut” (Don’t say a Word) has a spoken words intro, I am not a big fan of this, but when the music starts till the end (it did not need a number of times of listens), it makes it one of my favorites from that album, especially with the high pitch part in the middle of the song, just stunning. A big salute to the way this song is mixed too. Another epic song from this album is “mo tabee’y” (Not From This World), it falls in the same realm as "AlMahkama", in my opinion, but sang with Iraqi dialect. It is a song that is like another piece of jewelery presented in a luxury box to the listener, a fantastic story telling of a man listening to his best friend who is torn apart by the thin line between love and hate. The last, but not least is the song “Il Hilim” (The Dream): gives me the impression that this song is an attempt to approach Lebanese and Syrian listeners, yet, this mid-slow tempo (I call it "saltana style") is by no means considered as commercial or a fills-up for the album. I just love to repeat the beautiful intro of the song before I pull my finger away from the CD player to listen to the song as a whole.

If I want to talk about the title song from this album it would needs a separate post to write about, so I will keep it brief, especially when I see myself ignoring the rest of the album is a sort of injustice, in my opinion, and to this great musician (and I have to mention his band) and to the effort he put on each song. For that reason I decided to write a full album review, as already seen.

The song “Alrasm Bil Kalimat” (Drawing with Words) is composed by Kadim Al Sahir himself and the lyrics are taken from a poem written by Nizar Qabbani in 1966 – a poem that generated a lot of critics then because of the language and reference to a lot of details in the female body. "Don't ask me to recall my past life, as the story is long, my queen. You find me in every era, like I am millions years of age." It is a story about a man looking back at his past glories, his conquests in the land of sirens, and what has become of him today; a decaying soul, incapable of love and passion, the pen and the paper became his only salvation.

The music of the song was done using heavy symphonic arrangements. I felt like 9.34 minutes is too short for such a magnificent piece of music. The song is warm and powerful, rich with its musical elements; genius to merge classical music instruments in such a way with Arabic music style and scales i.e. maqams.

The mastering and mix of two songs from the album “Alrasm Bil Kalimat” (Drawing with Words)has been done at the Masterdisk Studios in Paris, France, but the rest of the album was mastered and mixed at the AVATAR studios in New York June 2009. This is the same recording studio that hosted a great number of music pioneers such as Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, John Mayer, and Al Di Meola.

For heavy metal fans, this is the same studio where progressive metal legends Dream Theater recorded their superb albums “Black Clouds & Silver Linings” and “Systematic Chaos”.

To summarize the above, the songs are like priceless paintings that depicted love, relationships, emotions such as shyness, sorrow, contemplation, deprivation and sleepless nights, as well as good and bad friendship.

Final word, buy this album if you didn’t, listen to the songs, enjoy perfection in music making and its arrangement

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Elections 2010: Elections Day

Chaos, is the word I can describe the situation when I went to vote today in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

All the arrangements by the Iraqi election commission is just a farce.

We arrived around noon, we were four families with women, children and the elderly.

I was anticipating the strong presence of the Kurdish community, so I was not surprised to see them celebrating and chanting their centered-sun flags on many spots and in the hands of the young and old. I did not see the Iraqi flag, any version of it, held by anyone except for a man and his son.

The first sight of festivities was in the parking lot, seeing five young men standing next to their car, taking photos for each other with their digital camera and dancing on the sound of the song "Shid Heelak Ya Iraq" playing loud from the car stereo. Just outside the parking lot, and in a very big open area there was a group of men and women, hand in hand, doing the traditional dance on Kurdish music coming loud from the speakers of a car. Few meters walking further towards the first entrance gate there was a crowd watching another group of Kurdish people doing the same song, or maybe another song, I don't speak Kurdish so I won't be able to recognize what is what.

At the main Entrance, on its right side there was a space allocated for people to leave their belongings, such as cameras, mobile phones, handbags...etc No one asked me, though, so I just walked onwards and there was the big surprise waiting for me: hundreds of people queuing, not queuing, in fact piling up like sardines. On the rare left side there were two TV camera's put on stand, one of them of the Iraqi official TV channel, AlIraqiya and the other of Kurdish News Network, but no one was behind either of them.

After seeing the situation, the families I am with decided on letting the children behind with one or two of us, and the rest start with their patriotic struggle! However, after just 10 minutes one of the families with us left and did not come back, they stayed in the car till we finished voting. When I came back I found out that they finished three packs of chewing gum with the children with them.

There was no consideration for the old, the children, or the ill. Every now and then someone emerge behind the high fence and call specific name. OK!!! even if he would find the man or woman he is looking for, how would he expect him to pass through???? From time to time the gate is open for one or two and suddenly it is opened and a batch of groups rush inside. Why is this? I don't know

I should not only blame the commission for this chaos, there are some people who just don't have any respect or the least of manners, like that young man in his late twenties who just indulged himself to the front of an old lady just to have a Kurdish chit-chat with his friend. Talking to him was no use, he just tried to say something in Arabic about a phone call. It did not stop to that, while the wave of people kept on pushing, that guy and his friend did not think for a moment about the people behind them, so I stretched my arm around the old woman and started to push the two guys away as I can.

A big man with the a badge hanging from his neck emerged from behind the check-point white tent and starting making signals to someone he knew among the crowd, and shouted "lift the baby-cart and come here" and signaled to move from behind the people. I could not take it anymore, I shouted at the man while pointing to the family left and behind me (a man, his wife, a baby in his small wagon and a small girl of 5 or 6) by saying "what is their guilt of this family then? why discriminate this family from the other. There are a lot of families stuck here". He murmured something, maybe cursed me, I could not hear him, but that generated anger in the young family man and exploded and started screaming as hard as he could:

"Shame on you, shame on all of you. We ran from Saddam's tyranny years ago, and now we are getting humiliated by you. Shame on you, bastards".

After almost two hours shouting and protesting this horrible trap they have been put into, someone behind the fence, half leg in his car and the other half outside was calling us, the voters, by the microphone and saying in Kurdish, Dutch and Arabic that they are going to organize the queue for all of us and he pleaded to assist the police to separate the old and families with children so they go in advance. That created more protests by the people, because there is no way to make such a separation, but at the end they managed and both the young family I mentioned earlier and the old lady got a chance to go in.

Did I mention that the cold weather? it drilled our bodies in spite of the heavy clothes we were wearing? There was a young man in his thirties wearing a white winter coat, hands in his pockets and standing like a chained man from top to toe except the one centimeter steps he was taking when pushed. The man was shivering in a way I have never seen, and because of the packed place, the vibration from that was felt by people surrounding him.

After a couple of time moving forward we stopped for sometimes on the small bridge that separate the main entrance from the path way we came from. It was an angel where I could see the packed pathway with people, and seeing many families give up and treat back for good. Suddenly, a man with short red hair standing in the middle of the crowd turned himself and started talking to the woman standing behind him... he quickly held her, the woman was fainting on his hand, he kept like pushing her to the back trying to find a gap to get her through the crowd. She was holding herself from falling, still had strength, but when they moved out of the crowd to a small corner she lost consciousness. The police came and a female police agent sat down on the floor and took the woman in her arms and started to give her first aid while talking to her and try to comfort her.

After that, like 15 minutes passed I managed to get through the main gate to the check-point white tent where two large metal detectors were erected on each side. At that moment, only the family man of one of the four families was with me. The rest were lost in the crowd. After checking what my pockets and what I have in my pockets - my cigarette lighter was confiscated - I went through the main yard to the main entrance of the voting compound. A young man was standing at the door giving pooling station numbers to every person want to vote. However, he did not give me a number - and I saw many people later did not have numbers and entered the voting station.

The voting compound reminds me of a bazaar, something like the Beverwijk bazaar here in the Netherlands or Souq Al Hamidiya in Damascus. No smoking is allowed but I could feel and see the smoke in the air. While waiting I talked and listen to some people who had one thing in common: they were very angry and extremely frustrated from the way the election high commission organized the event. There was a family of three woman in their thirties who came with other families in a bus all the way from France. They were furious, they even mentioned something about had a fight with the election commission representative at the check-point white tent. One of the two women screamed "There must be someone here who would observe all this crap and write about it on the internet. Someone must tell the truth about all this nonsense farce." A man who was talking to her said that they were not the only people from outside the Netherlands, there are other people came here by bus from Belgium.

The voting process was not that hard or complicated. The three men sitting in the voting station controlled my papers, they were very nice and they varied in the way they tried to show their official official or seriousness, I even exchanged traditional Arab jokes with one of them, a man of 50's with a very warm smile before I left them and gave my vote. I noticed while watching TV that the way we submit the voting application inside Iraq is different than the way we have been asked to do it. Here the voting application must be folded after choosing my candidate, put in a A5 envelop, seal the A5 envelop and put it inside an A3 type envelop, and seal, then I am allowed to put the big envelop in the voting plastic box.

So... a process of merely 5 minutes took me exactly 5 hours to complete

Here, you can find pictures of the event with an article in Dutch

Below is a video from Dutch Broadcasting Foundation (NOS) on the elections:

And the below video is from Radio Netherlands Wordlwide:

Friday, March 5, 2010

Elections 2010: Ready To Go

I called a friend of mine some time ago today to check with him about the elections.

After the mess (and the news) yesterday during the elementary round of the elections I can't say that I can trust the posted anywhere.

The deal is like this: my friend, his wife and children, I and my family will go together to the pooling station. In addition, we are calling all people we know so we can go as one group there and vote. I know some people who are not going to make it on their own, either they don't have transportation quick enough to take them, and there are friends we know that due to their health/disability who defenitely would be looking for some assistance.

Depending on the people coming with us, we will decide if we are going today, tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.

Sooooo, its going to be a long day.

In fact, its going to be a long weekend.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Elections 2010: Its Getting Ugly

Today is the first day of the parliamentary elections, but not for the public, it is restricted to allow only voters from military personnel, prisoners and the sick.

To summarize today's political events we can put the major parties in two categorese: the first is the calm, illustrated by media broadcasts of the government and Iraqi National Alliance (INA), for example, while on the othe side there is the panic sort of statements published in different media sources, such as that from Ayad Allawy's AL-IRAQIYYA (IRAQI NATIONAL MOVEMENT) who staged up his fears from false voting.

But throwing leaflets from helicopters warning people from voting for Allawy, as former prime minister announced? this is not a way.

I don't like seeing a media source to watch channels showing their bias to one side rather than the other, yet, Alsharqiya channel is showing publicly its support for Ayad Allawy since yesterday. Speaking about this satelite channel, every Iraqi knows how this TV channel focuses on disclosing everything related to the mess Iran is making within its interference in Iraq. I saw an advert yesterday or the day before yesterday, it focuses on one issue in particular, questioning the purpose from barring any candidate from running in the upcoming elections (like what happened with Al Mutlaq, of course). In addition, it educuate people with good quality graphic CGI effects about the danger that Iran is pausing and the chance Iran is taking to convert Iraq to another persian province, but the interesting thing is when showing the Iraqi flag: the old flag of Iraq, the same flag used by Saddam Hussein since 1990 when he "wrote" the word "Allah is Great" between the three green stars.

Terrorist attacks has its share in today's news: There was also three suicide attacks on three polling stations this morning in Baghdad, where military officials, prisoners and the sick specifically allowed to vote left more than 15 innocent people dead and many more injured.

What's odd in all of this the interviews with people on TV, most of them afraid of further attacks to disrupt the elections, others are almost sure that the elections would not be transparent as it should be, yet, all of them want to vote


all of them are hoping for security and stability

Did someone said that the country became safer???