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I said I was going to continue with Heavy Metal and the Middle East in my last post, so here it is. Actually... I think I will just copy and paste the written up version of my speech I did in class. Just as a warning, there was some strong language in one part, so it has been edited, but I still want to apologize if it is offensive to anyone. I think it is still a bit rough, and when I actually give the speech, it changes each time. Anyways, enough of me rambling. Here is my speech for my communications class:



Heavy Metal and Humanity


Originally
I wanted to do my presentation on something fun, that I enjoyed.
However, I changed my mind after seeing the documentary “Heavy
Metal in Baghdad” and reading Heavy
Metal and Islam
in my global
perspectives class. I realized that through music there was an
important story to tell the world. I know all of you aren't metal
fans, but this isn't just about heavy metal, it's about humanity. The
main focus of this presentation will be on “Heavy Metal in
Baghdad”and the band featured in the movie, Acrassicauda. This will
be further supplemented with information
from the previously mentioned book, Heavy
Metal and Islam.


But before getting to know the world of the artist better, it is
important to understand the situation in the Iraq. As we all know,
violence is prevalent due to war and conflict, but it does not just
occur just between soldiers.


The filmakers of “Heavy Metal in Baghdad”, two Canadian men, knew
this as they embarked on their journey. They also knew they would
need guides to travel in an unknown country. To take care of both of
these needs, they enlisted the service of an agency that provides
armored cars, bullet proof vests, a driver/bodyguard. What I can best
relate it too that we might have seen on television or the news, is a
famous person or high ranking politicians, leaving buildings and
traveling with an entourage or security.

Another glaring example seen in the movie was the bombing of Acrassicauda's
practice space. It was in the basement of a civilian shopping area.
No one where is safe anymore though. Bombs are dropped anywhere,
civilian areas or not. Luckily the band was not present, but they
lost equipment and a place that was nearly as meaningful for them as
their homes.

On top of senseless and aimless violence, people are subject to violence for
certain actions or ideals. Some of these stem from a dislike or fear
of western culture.

Now I want you to imagine living in Iraq. Do you think it would be safe to
speak English in your house? Do you think it would be safe to speak
English on the streets? Can you imagine being shot for it? In one
scene the filmmakers are calling one of thefband
members, who is whispering and trying to end the conversation quickly
forffear of his life.

In addition to the everyday cultural dangers, heavy metal fans and artists are further targeted.
Many governments, religions, and cultures, even in the United States,
have the wrong idea about heavy metal being satanic, inciting
violence, or having too much of a nontraditional/western influence.
Many countries ban it from being sold or censor it heavily. With this
adverse view on the metal culture, looking metal can bring hardships.
In the Heavy Metal and Islam
book, some bands speak of how they have been beaten, hair forcibly
cut off, harassed by police, and even had shows infiltrated, and
drugs planted.


Nothing gets easier though, assuming a band can form and try to make it, against the government and
cultural odds . Once metal artists try their hand at the industry, a
whole new set of obstacles are revealed.

One of these is Rotana. Rotana is like the Walmart of the Lebanese media industry. They have hundreds of
stars working for them, from through out the MENA region. As of when
the Heavy Metal and Islam
was written Rotana had the top 85% market share of the music
industry. In television, they control four of the top ten most
watched Arab channels. It is also both an international conglomerate
and a family business. Basically, if you deny working under them,
they have the ability to squash your career.

More evidence of the commercial obstacles is observed in the
transformation of the Boulevard of Young Musicians Festival. The
Boulevard music festival is one of the largest metal music festivals
in the MENA region. It has grown substantially from its first year,
boasting thousands of attendees, from all walks of life and styles.
While the event has been highly successful, as many subcultures find
out, to get exposure and grow, compromise often has to be made. Metal
has had to give in to the world commercialism that threatens to
demetalize them. The festival originally featured the silhouette of
rock artist Reda Amine, in a power stance, guitar in hand-embodying
the feeling of the festival and especially of metal. Unfortunately,
to be able to run such a large event, it comes down to money, and
sponsors from outside had to be incorporated. Nokia now graces signs,
posters, and shirts, as the symbol for the Boulevard of Young
Musicians Festival.

Events like the Boulevard festival and concerts often provide musicians with their
only means of exposure, seeing as metal is censored or banned in may
countries. Unfortunately, travel is made difficult by government
restrictions. One gentleman that was interviewed in the book was both
a metal fan and played the traditional music of his region. He is
well liked and is often requested to play at weddings. The problem
though is that many who ask of his service lived on the other side of
a barrier. The government did not want people to be crossing into the
other territory, so technically he could not oblige. Despite this, in
an act that seems crazy, he sometimes sneak across to play at
weddings on weekends. If caught it could mean his life.


Now that we have a better idea of the obstacles and conditions facing artists in
the Middle East, I think it is important to see how it reflects in
music.

In a phrase it is real metal, real rap, real life. As I had mentioned earlier, there
are strong negative stereotypes of heavy metal, especially in
reference to the perceived themes. However, most metal bands don't
sing about what has labeled as stereotypical metal themes. This is
even more true for metal and even for rap artists in the MENA. They
are living the oppression and war first hand. In some areas, the
conditions are worse, even after revolutions and wars have been waged
in hopes for improvement and change. One of the artists that
illustrate life's reflection in music is Peyman-Chet, an 18 year old
rap artist from Iran. He doesn't have the big house, lots of money,
and a fancy recording studio. He does dress the part, but he makes it
on simple means, and raps about what happens around him, just as the
metal artists sing and recreate the sounds of war with their voices,
drums, and guitars.

Since we are talking about music I think the best way to observe the relationship
of music and reality is through lyrics. I'm going to share a portion
of lyrics from Acrassicauda's song Massacre.


They want to kill
The rest of you
They came for me
But we're much stronger
They start the war and we pay the dues
No we won't fight any longer

Dreams of change
Evolution
To see you die
Demolition

A Demolition

They've got the power
To control my fate
I'd rather die
Than disintegrate

And I will fight
Until the end of this
Just set me free
And let me breathe



As I bring this to a close I want to share one more quote with you. In the scene it
is from, the band is watching the rough cut of the film, and see
their practice space, wrecked from the bombing. I am not showing the
clip to you because I feel you be alienated. Also keep in mind that
it is not rejecting the western world or us as individuals, so try
not to be hurt or insulted by the strong language used. I do believe
though, that if you read the text and consider the conditions and
events the men and women or the middle east have gone through, you
may find meaning in these emotionally charged words from one of the
members of of Acrassicauda.


“You know what? We feel sad. We feel terribly _______ sad. This is the _______
sad scenes. Tragedy scenes. Seeing the country the you grew up in and
all the people that you know that don't live anymore. Right now dead.
You know, these are things that you lay your back on. These are the
things that you turn off the TV whenever, or like change the channel
when it's on. So for you ______s down there, this is how it goes,
this is the daily life in Iraq. This goes to all you, ______s! Pigs.”


Acrassicauda has been lucky enough to make it to the United States, but only after the
film gained success and exposure. There are likely hundreds of
innocent people, singing the song of their peoples suffering, but no
one wants to listen to metal artist, let alone one from the middle
east. Through the wail of the guitar, the story is being told. It is
time to stop changing the channel on life and listen.


There it is. Life as a metal artist and a citizen of the Middle East. There is some much more I could say about this, but I hope you have questions, and I want you to ask them. The movie is incredible, so I recommend you check it. Next time I won't post something so long. Hope I didn't lose anyone with the length. Plus I think the speech is much more engaging when spoken.

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