"Don't Mean To Depress You, But You've Entered A Cultural Wasteland..." / by Cyrus

RMI ...said Peter, an aging refugee of the European left who has camped out in Sulaymaniah for the past twenty years.

i've been in iraqi kurdistan for about two weeks. things are going slowly. painfully slowly.

music assaulted me in kenya. here it's boredom that won't leave me alone.

the place feels kind of dead, despite the cars and money that ten years of oil have brought. i have to remind myself that this place was fucking devastated for 30 years, systematically dismantled, the culture and people constantly under attack, nearly every human i meet a former refugee. it takes time to regenerate. if it happens at all.

so i'm here, smoking away, thinking about music more than i'm hearing it, looking around at a culture i understand but a history i can't begin to imagine.

which is how i find myself knocking at peter's gate.

he lives in one of the only traditional houses left in this city of glass and snarled concrete -- a glorious courtyard, rock and roll, open windows, cats and trees. he serves coffee and we move the table to follow the sun. i'm not sure why i'm back here until he says -- "I don't mean to depress you, but you've entered a cultural wasteland."

"so why do you stay?"

because there could be so much. because the talent is here, if not the drive. because saddam, the ayatollahs, both assads, the turkish nationalists, none of them could break this place. will money?

peter sees hope. so far i've just seen a lot of dudes who like playstation and macklemore. but i leave feeling better. and coffee high.

an hour later i'm in a rehearsal space with a band of young musicians, some of the best in town. they play tar, setar, santur, kamancheh, oud, daf, dumbak, some of my favorite instruments in the world. and they kill it. they play traditional kurdish music and incorporate the western modes they've been learning in school. it's beautiful and uplifting and powerful. here's a quick video of a guy destroying a dumbak:

who knows what happens tomorrow. the search continues.