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Assyrian arts, music events to raise funds, awareness of cul...

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Assyrian arts, music events to raise funds, awareness of culture

Feb-28-2014 at 00:51 AM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

Helen Saint Vincent sings during a rehearsal of Assyrian music at Stars on Brand in Glendale Tuesday, February 25, 2014. The Assyrian Aid Society, which raises funds for Assyrians who are living in refugee camps in war torn parts of the Middle East, will hold a concert featuring rarely heard Assyrian folk music. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

Assyrian arts, music events to raise funds, awareness of culture
by Susan Abram - Los Angeles Daily News, February 26, 2014.

Their songs were born in Mesopotamia, where villagers sang of the mystery behind a woman’s deep gaze, their love for their vast, verdant land between two rivers and the mountain ranges that stretch toward the sun.

Now, thousands of years after those folk songs were created, some of the same melodies that survived time, wars and assimilation will be heard Saturday in Glendale as part of a fundraising concert and dance performance held by the Assyrian Aid Society of America.

“This folk music is still very strong in our culture,” but has not been widely heard in the Western world, said Sargoun Issa, president of the Assyrian Aid Society’s Los Angeles Chapter.

Since 1991, the nonprofit, along with its national and international counterparts, has worked to rebuild homes, fund schools and provide medical needs to Assyrians in Iraq affected by the two Gulf wars. But Saturday’s event also is a fundraiser to provide humanitarian aid to the Assyrian refugees who have been caught in the middle of Syria’s civil war.

An estimated half-million Assyrians fled to Syria in 2003 during the second Gulf War because of a surge of Islamic extremist attacks against them and other Christian minorities.

Now, Syria’s current civil war has forced many of those same families to return to the borders of Iraq. But their plight has been largely ignored and they remain an invisible minority. Assyrians are the indigenous people of Mesopotamia, presently Iraq, where the last and largest concentration of Aramaic-speaking people in the world have lived for thousands of years. Because many Assyrians call Iraq and Iran their homeland, they have been confused with Arabs and Persians.

Some relief may come in the near future. Last month, the Iraqi Council of Ministers approved a plan to establish three new provinces in Iraq, one of them the Nineveh Plains, which holds the largest population of Assyrians, Chaldeans and Syriacs. The legislation may make way for Assyrians to form a self-administered region.

Still, even after a mass exodus from their homeland and even within the diaspora, Assyrian music has managed to survive.

During a rehearsal for Saturday’s performance, musicians warmed up on a zornah, or wind pipe, and a dowlah, a drum. Mehdi Bagheri, who is from Iran, practiced on a kamacheh, a small, cello-like instrument.

Singer Sargon Youkhana said his songs celebrate the beauty of everyday life, a theme all people, no matter who or where they come from, can relate to.

“Music doesn’t have an ID,” Youkhana said. “It’s for everyone.”

“I want to rebuild this forgotten music.
We (Assyrians) are an old nation, but we are scattered, and we have no land. We shouldn’t forget our music because this is part of world history.”

— Helen Saint Vincent

Singer Helen Saint Vincent said her goal is to expose more people to traditional folk music before it is forgotten.

“I want to rebuild this forgotten music,” Vincent said. “We (Assyrians) are an old nation, but we are scattered, and we have no land. We shouldn’t forget our music because this is part of world history.”

Saturday’s performance is one of two arts events sponsored by the Assyrian Aid Society. An exhibit featuring works by several artists from Iraq, Iran, and Syria will open Friday in Montrose and run through Sunday.

Artist and poet Paul Batou said the themes presented in the work transcend differences in religion and ancestry.

“Artists from those countries are sending a message of peace using the colorful art that explores the culture and beauty of their homeland,” Batou said. “These artists believe that peace, art and education are the keys for change, a change needed for beauty to overcome hate, love to overcome war and destruction.”

Issa said the goal behind these events is to raise awareness of the Assyrian culture through the arts, so they are not lost.

“This heritage doesn’t just belong to Assyrians, but to all humans,” Issa said. “When we lose a part of a nation’s culture, all human beings lose a part of human heritage.”

The Mesopotamian Colors art exhibit will be open from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Whites Art Gallery, 2414 Honolulu Ave., Montrose. The exhibit ends Sunday.

The Winds of Folk Music event will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Beyond the Stars Palace, 417 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. Tickets begin at $50. For more information, visit www.assyrianaid.org


Assyrian arts, music events to raise funds, awareness of culture (videos)
http://www.atour.com/finearts/docs/20140227a.html

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Assyria \ã-'sir-é-ä\ n (1998)   1:  an ancient empire of Ashur   2:  a democratic state in Bet-Nahren, Assyria (northern Iraq, northwestern Iran, southeastern Turkey and eastern Syria.)   3:  a democratic state that fosters the social and political rights to all of its inhabitants irrespective of their religion, race, or gender   4:  a democratic state that believes in the freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture in faithfulness to the principles of the United Nations Charter — Atour synonym

Ethnicity, Religion, Language
» Israeli, Jewish, Hebrew
» Assyrian, Christian, Aramaic
» Saudi Arabian, Muslim, Arabic
Assyrian \ã-'sir-é-an\ adj or n (1998)   1:  descendants of the ancient empire of Ashur   2:  the Assyrians, although representing but one single nation as the direct heirs of the ancient Assyrian Empire, are now doctrinally divided, inter sese, into five principle ecclesiastically designated religious sects with their corresponding hierarchies and distinct church governments, namely, Church of the East, Chaldean, Maronite, Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic.  These formal divisions had their origin in the 5th century of the Christian Era.  No one can coherently understand the Assyrians as a whole until he can distinguish that which is religion or church from that which is nation -- a matter which is particularly difficult for the people from the western world to understand; for in the East, by force of circumstances beyond their control, religion has been made, from time immemorial, virtually into a criterion of nationality.   3:  the Assyrians have been referred to as Aramaean, Aramaye, Ashuraya, Ashureen, Ashuri, Ashuroyo, Assyrio-Chaldean, Aturaya, Chaldean, Chaldo, ChaldoAssyrian, ChaldoAssyrio, Jacobite, Kaldany, Kaldu, Kasdu, Malabar, Maronite, Maronaya, Nestorian, Nestornaye, Oromoye, Suraya, Syriac, Syrian, Syriani, Suryoye, Suryoyo and Telkeffee. — Assyrianism verb

Aramaic \ar-é-'máik\ n (1998)   1:  a Semitic language which became the lingua franca of the Middle East during the ancient Assyrian empire.   2:  has been referred to as Neo-Aramaic, Neo-Syriac, Classical Syriac, Syriac, Suryoyo, Swadaya and Turoyo.

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