Posts tagged ‘music’

Calling on Shabeh Raqada to Start the First “Assyrian Dance Academy”

I don’t like dancing. I never liked dancing. I will take it further and hope that by the time I get married, we will have found a substitution for it.  I think of dance as a waste of time. I don’t hate it. But I don’t like it either. Until I saw the following video. That is when my feelings about Assyrian dance changed. That is when I realized: ‘hey, dance is not bad after all’. I still wouldn’t dance, no matter what the occasion is,  or even if Miss Assyria is asking me to hold her hand in the Khiga.  But I have now come to realize, after watching this video, that our Assyrian dance can serve as a cultural preserver.

Our dance is not just for fun. It is full of meaning and historical lessons.  That dance from the video is called the “March to War” dance, which Assyrians practiced in one form or another, in the past.  I didn’t know people like Khoshaba Zaya (The man holding the sword, leading the khiga in the video-aka Shabeh Raqada) still exist, but they do. And we have to treat them as a national treasure, because our dance is one of many things we can do to preserve our traditions, culture, and link with the past.  Therefore, it is only natural to propose that Mr. Assyrian Dancer, aka Shabeh Raqda, started the first ever academy for Assyrian dance.

An Academy for Dance: a Priority?

If you have read my articles in the past, you will be shocked to hear my proposing such an idea. And you have all the right to question me.  I mean, why not an Academy for Science? or an Academy of Assyrian Language? why Assyrian Dance? well fellows, like I explained above, dance may not be a priority, as we have more urgent needs to look at first. But dance can revive an entire nation, at least in a symbolic sense.  Assyrian Khiga, for those who have never been interested in it, is nothing more than going in endless circles.

Actually, Khiga represents the state of our nation best: going in circles, with no end in sight.  But the one who holds the head of the Khiga, (Rishet Khiga) is our leader.  He leads us into the war and the future. He is the leader in this march to war.  You see where I am going with this? we can choose to make our Khigas more fun and symbolic, or we can choose to keep them the way they are; going in circles, with not much meaning to them.  So in essence, while an Academy for sciences or language would be more beneficial, when it comes to the cultural significance, a dance academy will have a huge impact.  Especially when our dance is taught to mean something, and not just as a way of fun.

Global Appeal for the School

Such a school will have to include, as part of the program, the history behind Assyrian dance, and how it has evolved to look like what it does today. The idea is to teach the dance with a cultural mind set, and for the fun part of it to come second.  If administered correctly, with the right mix of dances, this school can be a big success. Assyrians from around the world could send their sons and daughters to this school, and learn the right way to dance the Assyrian style.

Dance schools are very common in North America, teaching all kind of dances, costing parents hundreds of dollars. Those parents have different reasons for sending their kids to dance schools. Some think it helps in the character development of their children.  Others see it as a way of giving their children a much needed exposure to a rare mix of people and art under one roof. For Assyrians, these can all be reasons for sending their children to learn the Assyrian dance, in addition to the cultural advantage they will gain, when they master the dance and know the history behind it.  In the long term, you could see non-Assyrians showing interest in learning our dance; an easy way to export our cultural traditions to other nations and in return get some much needed recognition.

It can be Done

Yes it can be done. It can be profitable too. In return, we will profit ourselves too,  by becoming more aware of our rich culture and history. It is never a bad idea when we become a little more knowledgeable of our history and active in preserving it.  Dance is one way of doing this, and to benefit as many Assyrians as possible,  an Assyrian Dance Academy would come in very handy.  We already have a teacher in Shabeh Raqada, whose video we saw earlier.

Of course, Mr. Khoshaba is in Syria, and unless he was to relocate to Europe or North America, such an idea wouldn’t see much success. The idea is not to commercialize such a school, but keeping it free is not the best option either. Sure, it can get more people interested and coming. But we also need to have the resources to fund the academy, its administration and staff.  In the future, you could teach more things at this school, relating to our history and culture, including music, poems etc. Dance is just a start. In the long term, and looking through our binoculars to the future, we can see such an academy expanding to become a complete Assyrian Academy for Arts and Culture.  Boy, these binoculars have a good optical zoom, let us keep zooming to see an even better future!


Should we Write the Death Certificate for Assyrian Music?

Let me ask you a question, and be honest in answering it: when was the last time you bought an original Assyrian music album? Good for you if it wasn’t long ago. But it could also be years since you last did so; why buy albums if you can get copies or MP3 version for free huh? Unfortunately, this attitude is what is killing our Assyrian music. In fact, and aided by the advent of such programs like Kazaa, Napster etc. music is suffering a lot, Assyrian and non-Assyrian. This article however, concerns itself with Assyrian music. But others may argue, that Assyrian music is on the decline not because of illegal copying, but because Assyrian singers themselves are not producing good music. Which one should we believe? What is the true reason behind Assyrian music losing its popularity?

The fact of the matter is, the problem is like a self-enforcing cycle. Some Assyrians are no longer interested in buying music albums, so they just copy them for free. When that happens, Assyrian singers in turn get nothing for their efforts, so they get discouraged and are no longer interested in putting their time and effort in something that will go in vain. And this cycle will continue to self-enforce itself until we do something about it.

No one can deny it: illegal copying of music has become very popular in the last 5 years. The availability of cheap computer recording equipment, coupled with the invention of online music sharing, has made copying music a breeze. We have a whole new generation being raised on the idea that music should be given out for free, and that we should not pay for it. So this will obviously cause sales of Assyrian music to decline. While this has negative impact on singers themselves, it does help to promote their music at the same time; although on their expense. This clearly can’t go on forever.

Some people don’t think the problem lies in copying music. They think the problem is that the Assyrian music industry is under performing in itself. The music industry includes the singers, the musicians, the arrangers, the writers and others; singers are the focal point here. But are Assyrian singers really not sweating it out to produce something good? It depends on who you ask. One common misconception amongst our Assyrians is: “the music of the past is better than today’s music…” In other words, today’s music sucks compared to the music of the 90s. But in 10 years from now, that music of then will suck compared to the great music we have now. Do you notice something here? I do! It is our failing to appreciate something in its present. In other words, we never like our Assyrian music unless some few years have passed since it was produced. We can only argue that yesterday’s music is better than today because of the use of full bands, instead of relying on a one-man show on a keyboard or synthesizer.

So are we ready to officially announce the death of Assyrian music and write its death certificate? I don’t think so. Despite all that I have presented above, I still see a positive future for Assyrian music. A future where the singers and the people both re-enforce each other, thus leading to better music. In fact, and this is my personal opinion, I see no problem with Assyrian music in our day today. Music is part of our culture, and it helps define who we are. So it is very vital that we preserve it and work to make it better.

The golden generation of Evin Aggasi, Ashur Sargis, Sargon Gabriel, Biba, Linda George and many others have dedicated their life to serving the Assyrian song. And when they are gone, a new generation needs to take the lead. And the good news is, we already have a new generation that is not only redefining the Assyrian song, but also making it sound better. Linda George, Walter Aziz, Johnny Talya, Ninos Giwargis and many others, are revolutionizing our music and making it more modern with the new music of today. Of course, modernizing our music doesn’t mean to forget our original Assyrian music and tunes.

So by now, you should see a better picture of what is going on. You, the Assyrian people, including me, need to go out and buy more Assyrian albums. We need to support our singers as much as possible. Let us make it so that if someone copies Assyrian music, he is not only cheating the system but committing a sin too; a theft. Let us have some empathy, shall we?