Saturday, August 13, 2005

Youth Of Iraq, Episode 1

Today i am going to discuss the bacterial existence of rock music in the underground iraqi scene, my good friend Anarki13 has already given a brief biography of the only fingerable band, Cascuda, and its relationship to the supernode of the iraqi music scene, Saad Zai, in a recent post at his blog, it's very informative, check it out and come back here.

My main point is thus :
Iraqi metal music sucks.

What i would like to discuss here is a more inside look at this confused, huddled mess of a community, as well as the role of metal music in the arab world in general, and my own selfish little ambitions and fantasies corresponding to music as an art form that reflects emotion, erm, hope that my prespective may complement the one of 13's, giving in overall a general rough sketch of the whole shibang.

SONG : Audioslave - Number 1 Zero
One particular trick i like in a movie/book/song : Initial restrain followed by a great twist of events make the twist itself that much more powerful, one of my favorite song strcutures is a slow lazy song that sounds boring at first but suddenly gets spilled out in the middle by quite possibly one of the finest riffs i ever heard (a la Bleeding Me or Karma Police)Cornell, treasured for his ability to choose the exact words and vocal melodies to transcribe to the music, is on autopilot here, still he manages one of his trademakrs : moaning lines of
submission mostly throughout the verse, 'i will be the dog/be the little bird in your straw and sing you a song', however, by the 2nd bridge, sour signs of strength comes up : 'Just when you think u left me blinded, I will be creeping right up behind, and if I need to, I will keep you in the corner of my eye', what immediately follows is a primal explosion of the preverse triumph of an underdog, a single riff that gives the song a reason for existence. Tom Morello's best riff, hands down...Out Of Exile is way better than the ramshackle meat'n'potatoes debut, but the band still has some way to go.

Guitar Radih...

From the land that gave the world the wheel, the code of laws and the bortokala there is an ugly feedback sound driven by people that look like just me and you...17 year olds locked up in their rooms performing holy headbanging rituals, the community of heavy music in iraq could be approximated in say....200 hundred people max.

The main players are these :

1. Saad Zai :born in 1950s, a frail, small-built man with a disease (kidney?) is also the best guitarist in Iraq, (Anarki claims middle east, but dude, come on! what do u know???), praciting guitar since the early 80s, Zai is a currently a music teacher, i have taken 2 lectures so far there, his place is an exact reflection of the iraqi music scene : a small dark room with lots of electricity wiring for the several sources of electricity (natinonal and not), a perpetual mess of guitar gadgets, a dirty paino upon which heaves of stuff can be located, writings on the walls, an obscure MESS...but amongst it all stands a virtuoso, he had written a number of songs for an album he recorded on Cool Edit software (Death Wishes, i have a copy) as well as being probably the main reason for the existense of the band Accrasscida....single, christain, good-natured, humorous, hospitable, but u cannot feel that he is misplaced, he should be somewhere else.

2. Cascuda (real name : Accrasscida i think, but we just call 'em Kaskoda), did about six or five live gigs, they are :

2. Al Orphali Hall, outside in a garden, this gig is taped, u can get a copy from Saad Zai, 3 CDs, bootleg quality...they sing songs such as 'Mission Impossible' by Bizkit and a few originals
'Psycho', 'The Youth Of Iraq' etc etc...(2001?)
3. Al Ribatt Gig, i attended this one. (Spring 2002) they sang covers of Metallica 'Forwhom' , Slayer 'Seasons/I Hate You combo' and SoaD 'Aerials' as well as the nameless originals
4. Al Hindaya Gig [i think] (September 2004)
5. Al Sayed Hunting Club, (October 2004)which they left midway through due to conflicts with the club's management who allowed no headbanging after witnessing some thirty people headbanging to For Whom The Bell Tolls, i was there too.
6. Al Fanar Gig, free gig, small. (July 2005)

Now, here is my assessment of the situation :
The iraqi music scene, if it continues in this direction, shall suck infintely and without question. the music released are just stupid, generic and done by people who play the music but don't know how to understand it nor present it. (Don't look at me, I just listen)

Here is an excerpt from an interview with Waleed R, ex-vocalist (currently in Canda) and easily the most dominant member of the band :

Waleed: We sing songs about real stuff, like death, stuff we see everyday, not fake stuff like love songs.


This is the exact goddamn problem with iraqi metalheads (oh please, i feel so lame saying iraqi metalheads, as if they are widespread) in general, they all think they know something u don't....a glimpse of the supernatural, or poser-preppy-shit, nose way up in the altitude of flourscent lights, as a matter of fact, the kid's opinion is presicely the immature, stupid, generic, laughable portarayl in which he humiliated himself during his memorable appearance at the MBC2's programme eariler...once i remember me & 13 talking about that, he summed up by saying in response to my allegation that Rabiea had the fire and wildness to lead, 'sure, but we don't need an ass'....i imagined Rabieaa's body equipped with a big butt and when he takled the two buttchecks will unfold in a series of...uhhh...well, it wasn't far from truth, actually.Waleed Rabiea portrays an arabic youth whose identity has been completely washed away by western values, as a matter of fact, 'reality' of what happens in iraq is as far away from his songs as [weak metaphor here] and by jove! , u just don't see the images of a Saddam Hussein's execution into a death metal rant, this state of mind, in my opinion, is exactly what should be avoided, it is the essence of poserism, it is not real, it is PATHETIC.

Give him credit though, the kid has ambition (Scuda's actually dream of Ozzfest! HAR!!!!), and on stage he is the only person with any presence, banging and not caring about whatever anybody thinks about him.


I am at Accrasscida's Al Ribaat gig in early spring, 2002. I study hard for my baclaorea exams and they're talking about an upcoming war, u could smell it on the streets and yet here i am alongside say 100 hundred in a half-full hall, 99 of these are men, mind ya...and all of a sudden, dark arpeggios fill the room, music comes pouring out, before plunging into a series of death metal songs (one of which, The Youth Of Iraq, is a pro-Saddam song, but nobody in the audience knew that, he might as well be singing about the ingredients of a well-cooked Dowlmah), I suddenly get struck with the feeling, which I am sure almost 90% of the crowd shares, what the hell am i doing here? it is so un-cultural?!? so unreal!!!? SO POSING, i gotta go
home and worry about poverty and Saddam and exams and drink tea and go around drviing a car aimlessly pretending to look at el heteet or some such iraqi stuff, Fog El Nakhal Fog....i look around me, and it is easy to see the same thing flowing through the crowd like static, nobody is willing to lose their cultural identity, every now and then every guy around would try headbanging for acouple minutes, but there is a slight microsecond that suggest his incompatablity, everybody knows this, even the band, who just stand and play, except for Rabiea, who is the only guy with the willingness to lose it all for a deathmetal chant and the glorious sound of guitar (which was almost muted throughout the entire concert, Zai personally told me that nobody in Iraq knows how to set up a guitar live)

Why is this?

this is not culture clash, this is culture shock.

To sum up why, it is safe and a bit pretentious to say that the artform displayed was not sufficient enough for the recipients to lose the cultural identification, it wasn't all-encompassing, at their best the crowd cheered mostly due to the bassist's rendition of 'Last Of The Mohicans' because it is the one most identifible with the cultural unit, the cheers were hollow, they weren't real ; still, they were there cuz they were an iraqi band, their peers, the band was adequate, acceptable, don't get me wrong and like said earlier, they reflected the generic boneheaded metal stupidity expected from 19-year-olds obsessed with sex and death well. Their best known song, 'Psycho' is a mediocre attempt at a Judas Priest song sung with a Manowar attitude
'Psycho's on the run, Psycho's on the loose'
real stuff?
The band suffered the same pressure as well, they weren't into their music too much to make the audience let loose in the same infectious manner, they were as reserved and cautious as any jerk so basically music was huh-huh, peer pressure, etc's just by-the-numbers, really.

For music like this to prosper, its creators should possess the mentality to interpret their art to the reciepents by more INTELILGENT methods, both musically and lyrically. This will be explored later.

the above is a two-word sentence, for an iraqi metal to survive, they would have to focus on one word of the couplet, and forget the other infinitely

I.e. they could either focus on being IRAQI, selling out, using the publicity that they get from current media dissection of the land to get ahead, still they won't get so far if they don't have something different once they make the spotlight.
2. Or they could be metal, totally dropping any identification with their own origins, if they want to appeal to a western market, the result will be a complete loss of potential, the possibilties for a band from iraq could have dozens of interesting elements to them, if in the right hands, a band with talent could express the tragic stories and presicely the correct approximation of the color of their country WITHOUT sounding preppy, and by god, we have already a dozen of faceless metal bands, and if so, they have a very hard time going up the ladder.

Ahem, erm....well...

Hereby I am going to lay down some of the thoughts that I have kept confined to my own about errr....a standard by which a band formulated in Iraq, or the arabic world in general, may actually attain some respect....

You are transported by a whimsical bolt of my mind into my Dreamscape....there are two doors, one to the right, pale yellow with dents and the other with a cool black sheen...before u have the opportunity to enter my perverse erotic universe i quickly spank....usher you to the left, my musical ambitions door. here I am going to say stuff that has grown into my own insecure, improbable parallel universe, I am going to sound big and in-the-know, but pardon me, it is my fantasy after all, i have the right, i am THE CREATOR.

I just wanted you to understand that...

Scandivian Metal, New Wave Of British Heavy Metal....Would U Expect so See Jalghi Metal up there sometime?

To Be Continued....I gotta get me the Zs!

Out & About...
The Kid


aNarki-13 said...

Friend, first off, have you REALLY heard Sa'ad play when he's in the mood?

also: If u'd take time and effort to listen to Amer Touma and Luay Rifai (1st is a Syrian, 2nd Jordanian) you wouldnt say such things..
both are ok, but suffer from the usual case of misdirection, the song starts somewhere and ends up at a place entirely different, and dont give me the "Progressive" stuff, I listen to Liquid Tension Experiment!
their playing is excellent, but they still need experience.. Saad has both.

oh and Kid, this is not a retaliation, please believe me:
you suffer from a bad case of pretentiousness (is there such a word??) in any case, ur blog sounds too well thought of, which is not entirely bad, but still, the best blogs come instantaneously from the heart, try to cut down on the fancy-schmancy writing!

oh and its "Shebang" there you mean!

c ya round

Konfused Kid said...

i know man...

no harm, no foul...

i'm sorry but i think Kurt Vonnegut said that there are two kinds of writers, sponatenous and anal-retentive, i am unfortunately the second.

Sorry. I can't help it, i know that the best art is spoantaneous but i what i usually try to say are thoughts that have been long composed in my mind, so they are not sponatenous already...

anyway forget my style i know it ain't what i aspire it to but what did ya think of the actual SUBJECTS

p.s. i wasn't making fun of ya about Saad's just that both you and i know that u've never been to the whole Middle East so u can't comfortably declare this, there could be a self-taught shaman in Morocco who nobody ever heard of who can shred faster...

well, u r right i never witnessed Zai in full-blown mode, but i have heard his songs and whilst they do have form, it wasn't as i hoped it would be.

Still i don't want this to be a friendly cold war or such so believe me whatever i was telling ya it was a really minor issue i always enjoy your posts and i seriously consider them special, they are the reason i got blogging, i told u this a thousand times before...u R the most unique person i know in Iraq....don't ever forget that...

Your Bud,

aNarki-13 said...

Hey hey dont get all defensive on me now!

AKid: listen up, I actually enjoy criticism, lets my creative side loose!

cheer up! do I have to send a pic of me smiling so u believe there aint no cold war??

:) come on! sorry man if you misunderstood me, just pointing out sth2u! criticism only makes us better!

chill now, c ya soon..salam to the shilla

Bill said...

Hi Kid,

Really enjoyed this post.

You seem to have some business sence (which is rare for musicians...heh) I agree there is no subsatute for quality and talent (INTELILGENT methods)

The IRAQI METAL section I disagree (a little bit) about the selling out thing...a band does what it has to do...I can't tell you how many times I have had to play Johnny-B-Good because thats what the people wanted..but carefull what you wish for as it may just come true and then you better have ur shit together.

The best example I can think of is Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs they had a huge hit with a tune called Wooly Bully and all Sam did on the keyboard was to Bang out 8th notes the whole tune.

Also enjoyed ur review of Bleeding I can't let a tune go by without trying to hear it meself...went to my fav spot on the net to grab tunes...and DL the thing...good tune...Guitar players used to get that sound with (I think they were) Hamond B-3 organ speakers the one where the speaker would spin inside the box and get that underwater sound.
They just step on a button now days.

anyways good post man will be looking for the next

take care

Ultraphony said...

interesting discussion here.

just a correction : Luay Rifai is actually syrian, not jordanian.
seen him performing , listened to his recent cd.

Criticism is always helpful..
well..most of the time at least :)

you both guys made excelletn points there.

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Anonymous said...

If you think iraqi metal sucks .. if u think saad zai is the best guitarist in iraq .. if u think SICKauda or wuteva u call em is the only n best metal band in iraq .. THINK AGAIN ...
This is the best iraqi guitarist .. check em out

Abbas Hawazin said...


i know this guy. i don't think he's better than Zai, or even Hussein il 6eez Steen.