Films and shorts from Raw Music International

I Snuck Off the Slave Ship (2019)

Short film for Lonnie Holley’s devastating song I Snuck Off the Slave Ship. Directed by Lonnie Holley & Cyrus Moussavi.

Premiere : 2019 Sundance Film Festival

Screenings at: BAM CinemaFest (NYC), Atlanta Film Festival, MUMA & Liquid Architecture (Melbourne, AU)

Sometimes I Wanna Dance - Lonnie Holly (2018)

Dir. Cyrus Moussavi, DP. CM & Charles Miller, Prod. Brittany Nugent & Matt Arnett. PA. Colbie Fray. Featuring Neesha Nyce, Queens on a Mission, Edeliegba Senior Dance Ensemble, and Mr. Eddie Tigner. Shot in Atlanta on a very hot day in the summer of 2018 in a former gas station transformed into a juke joint with items from the collection of Matt Arnett.

OULAYA'S WEDDING [Documentary Film, 2017]

Group Doueh are the most beloved wedding band in the Western Sahara. When their eldest daugther Oulaya got married, they threw the biggest party the region had ever seen. OULAYA'S WEDDING is an intimate, impressionistic account of love, religion, and searing guitar music in the desert. 

A collaboration between Raw Music International and Sublime Frequencies. Directed and Produced by Hisham Mayet, Cyrus Moussavi, and Brittany Nugent. 

Screenings: FAME Fest (Paris), Norient Musikfilm Festival (Bern, CH), Anthology Film Archives (NYC), NW Film Forum (Seattle), Speed Art Museum (Lousiville), Caucasus All Frequency Fest (Kvemo-Omalo, Georgia)

MTOTO SI NGUO (A Child Is Not A Cloth) [Documentary Film, 2017]

The great Kenyan guitarist George Mukabi was murdered in 1963. A brilliant and violent man, he left behind legend and a stunning finger-picked guitar style. In 2016, I traveled through Western Kenya, meeting family and friends and a generation of artists who followed his footsteps. MTOTO SI NGUO is the story of Mukabi and guitar music in Kenya today. Featuring performances by Shem Tube, Sukuma bin Ongaro, Fanuel Amimo, and Mukabi's son Johnstone Ouko (above). 

Shot, Produced, and Edited by Cyrus Moussavi


Clips from our work in Mongolia, Burma, Iraq, Ukraine, Trinidad, Turkey, Kenya, Cambodia, Thailand, and Western Sahara. Music by Ulaanbaatar's great Bodikhuu.

RAW MUSIC MONGOLIA [Short Doc, 2016, NBC News]

Music from the mountains of western Mongolia to the urban hub of Ulaanbaatar. An examination of climate change and urbanization through sound. By Cyrus Moussavi and Jacob Russell. 


Burmese refugees in Iowa celebrate Christmas and mourn the tragic drowning death of 18-year-old Moe Sed. Shot, Produced, Edited by Cyrus Moussavi.

RAW MUSIC BURMA [Short Doc, 2015, NBC News]

We explore the music of the Burmese highlands as the nation opens to trade and tourism for the first time in five decades.  By Cyrus Moussavi & Jacob Russell.

Father and Daughter, Karen State, Burma [Music Video, 2015]

One of our favorite songs from our Burma episode. Shot early morning after a rough night on the floor of a monastery in Karen state. 

MAKE IT HAPN - MUST EAT AH FOOD [Music Video, 2015]

Shot in downtown Port of Spain, Trinidad with Make It Hapn, who don't rap yankee. By Cyrus Moussavi and DGainz. 

RAW MUSIC UKRAINE [Short Doc, 2014, NBC News]

What happens to music during a civil war? We met young artists in Odessa and Kharkiv as conflict spread across eastern Ukraine. By Cyrus Moussavi and Jacob Russell with Clara van Miert 

RAW MUSIC KURDISTAN [Short Doc, 2014, NBC News]

Our first short for NBC News follows Helly Luv, a Kurdish pop star, and Iraj, an Iranian fruit vendor, as they navigate the new Kurdistan in the post-Saddam era. By Cyrus Moussavi and Jacob Russell.

Extras and Shorts


 Arn Chorn Pond and Seyma Thon are social activists and musicians in Cambodia. We spent the night at their beautiful home on the Mekong River, and woke to a morning jam session of pre-Khmer Rouge classics. The Golden Era. I still hear Seyma's voice singing this song in my head. 


I traveled Western Kenya looking for the remnants of omutibo music, a glorious rhythmic acoustic guitar style invented by George Mukabi in the Luhya areas of Kenya in the late 50s.  Shem Tube led the band Abana ba Nasery, famous for their interlocking guitar parts and swagger.  Tube is now a very old man, living at his ancestral home. We recorded with him, his son, two friends, and endless neighbors and friendly animals in the middle of a rain storm. His voice quavers as he reinterprets classics from decades before. 


The great Sukuma bin Ongaro with his jazz band, jamming off car-battery-powered amps in rural Kenya during the shooting of the documentary film MTOTO SI NGUO. 


The great guitarist Olima Anditi, filmed at home during the recording of what would become the first Raw Music International vinyl release, "Olima Anditi: Where Else Would I Be?"


 A long-song.  The syllables are stretched out and belted across the steppe. A story takes days or months to tell. One of the most stunning experiences of our journey across Mongolia. More about this session here

ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA [Short, 2015, Wall Street Journal]

This one isn't about music but I'm posting because Jacob and I were really impressed with Shijir and her drive and outlook. We were working on the longer Raw Music episode and broke for a couple days to make this for the Wall Street Journal's series about young girls around the world, Girl's Life. The dumplings they made here were some of the best we had on our trip. 


The great morin khuur (horsehead fiddle) player Dashjamts and his musical partner Altan-Tsetseg Sedee jam at home Mongolia's capital city. This was our last day in the country, and Dashjamts treated us to vodka shots, stories of the countryside, and hours of music on multiple instruments.


Khun Narin's Electric Phin Band. I saw a YouTube video of these guys years ago and it blew my mind. What earthy psych jams. What was that instrument? And where did the marching drums come in? It was a dream to travel to Lom Sak and, with the help of a young French anthropologist named Edouard, finally see Khun Narin's band rock out in real life.


 On the way to Iraq by bus, I stopped in Diyarbakir for a few days to learn about Kurdish culture on the Turkish side of the border. The Deng Bej house was old man HQ -- the guys would shuffle in in the morning and drink tea, smoke cigarettes, talk, argue, bullshit, and SING GLORIOUS IMPROMPTU A CAPELLA SONGS until dark. A good vibe, though they thought my earnest translator was a devil.

The singer in this video is Saeed Khan, the songbird of Diyarbakir, as he calls himself. He's widely considered the most talented Deng Bej artist in the area. 

The Deng Bej house, it is reported, has been destroyed in the most recent (2016) attacks by the Turkish government on Diyarbakir.  I trust these old men got out safe. They are wily guys, and you don't make it this long in Turkey's beleaguered Kurdish zones without some serious survival skills. My dream is to go back and see them properly when the shelling stops. 

NYC, USA, 2015

Mongolian Heavy Metal is a concept that seems to sell itself. Nature leads Tengger Cavalry, the world's greatest (and only) marauding Mognolian metal band. We met when I was preparing for my trip to Mongolia, and when I returned, we made this video for CNN's Great Big Story.


On the road to Hpapun in Karen state. A traditional Karen mandolin (kana) song...


Ran into Calypso stars The Incredible Myron B (of Ebola Scare fame) and Mistah Shak outside Kaiso House in Port of Spain.  They dropped this little extempo.  To me this is the roots of freestyle rap battles.

YANGON, MYANMAR, 2015 [Short, Time Magazine]

A short about the final days of the Yangon River Ferry for Time Magazine's website.