In pictures: Kurdistan welcomes international music festival
By A.C. Robinson
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – For the first time in five years artists from France and the Kurdistan Region came together at an international music festival in Erbil to usher in a new era on Tuesday night.
Six bands played in front of hundreds at Babylon Crown Hall in Ainkawa bringing different genres and styles to the festival. I Maistrelli, a group of five female artists came from Corsica sang mostly a capella, with a later addition of only a guitar.
Vincent Ardet was a French group who sang blues rock. French rapper Phipoh also performed.
Additionally, three local bands joined in as B Shadow played rock music, and Dark Phantom and Hash specialized in thrash metal and heavy metal.
"We’re really happy to be here and have the opportunity to play at such a big festival," said Abdullah Barzanji, manager of the group Dark Phantom which are a mix of five members including Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, including their lead vocalist from Sulaimani. The band plays covers of heavy metal hits. It has already released two albums and is working on its third of original music.
Barzanji hopes Dark Phantom next plays in Europe because their English lyrics describe the political situation in Iraq.
Sirwan Padar with B Shadow said that playing at the festival was a big honor.
"It helps people to understand western music more and trying to mix it with our culture," Padar said. "That makes us more professional and makes Kurdish musicians more international."
He also hoped the government will start to better appreciate musical artists and provide more opportunities for musicians in the Kurdistan Region.
Marie Alice of I Maistrelli and her band members have been together for five years.
"We all feel extremely happy and proud because it is a beautiful exchange for us," Alice told Rudaw. "The people are extremely brave, happy and hospitable. We hope to come back to this beautiful country."
Obyda Ali was excited to attend a festival that was playing his favorite type of music, rock, which isn’t locally popular.
"The performances were amazing. The variety of musicians was very cool and seeing everyone around me having fun," Ali said. "This is a great thing. I really support these types of shows in Erbil and hope to see more in the future."
The music festival was held in Erbil between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Tuesday night but will be moving to Duhok on Wednesday and Sulaimani on Thursday. Admission is free.
Dominique Mas, the French consul general, gave a statement prior to the festival.
"Today, because we know that these people fought for us and for our freedom, they died because they wanted us to live normally – to enjoy our culture, to enjoy our values," he said. "So I think it's important now to change, to turn the page, and to start something new and to give hope to the youth in Kurdistan, to give hope to everybody and to send the very strong message that we are now starting a new part of our history."
Babylon Media, an event partner, echoed Mas’ sentiment.
"We want to put away the 2014-2017 years and this is one of the declarations that we are here now to live and to make Kurdistan great again, like it was before when we had events and people from outside coming doing beautiful things and cultural exchanges so this is very vital," Noor Matti from Babylon, told Rudaw English on Tuesday. "It's important to have things like this for a healthy society."
This was the first concert hosted by the French consulate since 2013 prior to ISIS taking over large swathes of Iraq in 2014.