Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Iraqi Metal band forced into exile

"Starting a band anywhere isn't easy. Along with everything that can go wrong before the first song is even written, logistical concerns like rehearsal space, gear, transportation, venues and audience are always troublesome. Even the heartiest and most talented of hipsters can find their rock 'n' roll dreams shattered by bad luck. Now imagine starting a band in Iraq during the dictatorship of Sadaam Hussein and continuing it through the increasingly dangerous years following the U.S. invasion and occupation. This is the reality for Acrassicauda, Iraq's only known heavy-metal band, a reality brought to light in the documentary Heavy Metal in Baghdad.

The Vice magazine-produced doc follows Canadian filmmakers Suroosh Alvi (one of the founders of Vice) and Eddy Morretti as they journey to the war-ravaged nation to try and help the band put on a show and cut a record in the worsening conditions - to mixed and frustrating results.

"Hope decreases day by day," Alvi says of Baghdad. "The band are fighters, their conviction is so strong. It's amazing they haven't given up during all of what is happening to them."

Inspired by Western metal legends like Metallica and Slayer, Acrassicauda (Latin for "black scorpion") formed during Hussein's oppressive regime. Honing their skills in a Baghdad rehearsal space, practicing sometimes 18 to 21 hours a day, the band was only able to play three shows before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

During the ensuing occupation, increasing security and the violence of the growing insurgency made it almost impossible for the band to practice or play shows. As things grew worse, members of the band began to receive death threats and were labeled Satan-worshipers by insurgents and fundamentalists.

Eventually the situation became unbearable and the band - like an estimated two million other people - became refugees, living in Damascus, Syria.

"Then it became a new problem," Alvi says. "As refugees, Iraqis are unwanted in Syria. As a band, the guys aren't even welcome in the ghettoized Iraqi parts of the city - they're seen as Satan worshipers or whatever. There's no audience for them. And there's nowhere for them to go because anyone with an Iraqi passport can't leave the country."
Heavy Metal, Hard Times: Thursday, October 25, 2007

The band have made into Turkey. Find out more about the band and the successful documentary here:

Heavy Metal in Baghdad

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