Left Justified: The invasion of Syrian musicians

One good thing about the war in Iraq and the devastation caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita is there may be no invasion of Syria or Iran. Whether you know it or not, there are major American military facilities in Iraq poised to carry our troops to war against other Muslim countries.

Iran is probably No. 1 on Bush’s hit list. I don’t think the U.S. government has forgotten, nor forgiven, the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in the 1970s. And Iran has more oil than Iraq.

Syria is none too friendly, either, even though Rockford will be hosting a musical group from Damascus this Sunday, Oct. 2. Called “Hewar,” which means “dialogue” in Arabic, they are playing a concert for peace at the Unitarian Universalist Church (4848 Turner St.) starting at 7:30 p.m. (Tickets available from Charlotte’s Web for the Performing Arts, 964-2238.)

Made up of three, four or five Syrian musicians (depending on how many get U.S. visas), they will try to transcend the cultural barriers and use music to bring us humans closer together. It costs 12 bucks, but if you mention that you saw it in The Rock River Times, I’ll only charge you 10.

With the hemorrhaging of our hard-earned tax dollars, the U.S. government might as well just become a subsidiary of Halliburton. Don’t even bother expecting any invoices; just give them the keys to the Treasury building and Fort Knox.

If you hope or expect to see any poor people helped, you better keep on giving to your favorite charities. Mine is Church World Service (they sponsor the CROP Hunger Walk on Sunday, Oct. 16). The Red Cross and Salvation Army—these nonprofits can make the eagle on a dollar screech.

But Halliburton is stretched, too (imagine that). They have to pretend to rebuild Iraq. They cannot pretend to feed our troops, nor rebuild New Orleans. That takes more money than you or I have, and so George Bush is going to have to not cut taxes for his buddies, or give up invading new countries.

So Iran, Syria, and even North Korea are breathing easier. (Maybe that’s why the U.S. signed an agreement with them. The only difference between this agreement and the one six years ago: North Korea has five atom bombs).

So Syria is letting its musicians visit the evil empire, and we got them to come to Rockford.

Members of the group are (or should be): Kinan Azmeh, clarinet; Issam Rafea, oud (which is a fretless lute, one of the oldest instruments in the world); Dima Orsho, vocals; Kinan Abu-Afach, cello; Omar al-Musfi, percussions. The translated name of this ensemble says it all: Dialogue. It is an attempt to transcend the barriers of cultural disparities and misconceptions, and establish a civilized communication to build on what brings humans closer together rather than what separates them. This is achieved through a unique musical exchange between different personalities (using each individual instrument as the only means of this communication).

Our Fair Trade Store (201 Seventh St.) will have some of their music, if we ever get permission from the City Building Department.

Drawing from an array of musical traditions—namely Arabic, jazz, scat, opera and classical music—is what makes it a truly unique venture. What justifies Hewar’s ostensibly unusual and eclectic line-up is the instruments: oud (Arabic lute), clarinet, soprano, cello and Oriental and African percussion, all emphasize the ability of music to express a wide scope of human emotions. This makes for a distinctively unique sound, allowing for an open-ended dialogue among Arabic music, jazz and Western classical melodies.

For an added attraction, you can show up an hour early, pay an extra $12, and eat with the crew. It will be a Middle Eastern meal. You have to call me for reservations (815-964-7111).

I doubt the Syrian government will care much about Rockford, Ill., but I know these Syrian musicians will receive a warm welcome when they play here. Rockford Peace & Justice Action Committee hosted a Middle Eastern group more than a year ago, and this was one of their more enjoyable stops. You are welcome to make it even more enjoyable.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the Sept. 28-Oct. 4, 2005, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!