Nov 092004
 
Authors: Erin Skarda

Nine days after U.S. troops entered Baghdad in April 2003, a duo

of American musicians stood at the base of the fallen statue of

Saddam Hussein.

While around them buildings were engulfed in flames and smoke

filled the air, Cameron Powers and Kristina Sophia played and sang

Arabic music with the Iraqi citizens.

“It might seem surprising (to Americans) that (Iraqis) talk

about music while living with war-time reality, but they can’t keep

their focus on that 24 hours a day,” Powers said. “They welcome the

opportunity to sing and dance.”

Powers and Sophia, founders of the nonprofit organization

“Musical Missions for Peace,” visited Baghdad on one of their many

trips to Arab countries.

The organization’s goal is to build bridges between the United

States and Arab nations.

The musical duo shared its unique experiences and performed

Arabic music to an audience of about 40 people Tuesday night at the

University Village Center, 1600 W. Plum St.

The presentation, sponsored by Apartment Life and The

International Social Council, was put on to give the community a

chance to explore other cultures.

Julie Rozek, a graduate student studying student affairs in

higher education and an apartment manager for Apartment Life, saw

Powers and Sophia perform last spring and felt compelled to bring

them to the CSU community.

Powers and Sophia’s performance was part of an initiative to

build awareness and gain appreciation for different cultures,

Flores said.

A variety of instruments were showcased during the performance.

Powers played the oud, an Arabic string instrument similar to the

guitar; the bouzouki, a Greek string instrument, and the nay, a

flute-like instrument. Sophia played percussion on the doumbek, or

drum; the riq, similar to a tambourine, and the tar, a frame

drum.

Powers said the basic message of the performance and

presentation was to push aside fear and encourage openness to other

cultures.

“Humanity is one being,” Powers said. “When we travel it is

important to travel with love and not fear.”

Iraq is just one of the many places Powers and Sophia visited.

The Boulder natives have also played popular Arabic music on the

streets of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Morocco and the West Bank.

“We are going over there to show (Arab people) that there are

Americans who understand and appreciate their culture and their

music,” Sophia said.

Their journey began after the effects of Sept. 11, 2001,

reverberated throughout the United States. Many of their shows were

canceled because people felt it was not a good time to play Arabic

music.

After seeing the effects Sept. 11 had on their Palestinian

friends, Powers and Sophia decided to try to bridge the cultural

gap between the nations.

Their first stop was Jordan in fall 2002. Powers played the oud

and Sophia sang Arabic songs as a group of about 15 citizens joined

in.

Sophia said they received a warm welcome from the Arab

community. In their last three trips, Powers said they did not hear

a single rude comment. The citizens repeatedly asked them to play

their music and sang along with them.

“You’ll never hear an Arab person say ‘I can’t sing,'” Sophia

said.

The musicians traveled back and forth from the Middle East to

the United States over the next few years, gaining new experiences

as they went.

They finally got a chance to go into Iraq after Saddam Hussein

was ousted.

Powers said the Iraqi people have a strong sense of

independence.

“My Iraqi friends told me back in 2002 before (President) Bush

launched the invasion that the Iraqi people would fight forever if

they were invaded,” Powers said.

Caroline Sandery, an exchange student at CSU from Australia

studying health and exercise science, said she felt the

presentation was a good idea to get word out about a culture

Americans are not often exposed to.

“It was amazing and quite inspiring also,” Sandery said. “It

makes me want to get out more than I already have and extend

myself.”

Rozek said the presentation’s overall message was to be open to

other cultures.

“The message was definitely setting aside fear to take the

opportunity to learn about another culture and at the same time

converging part of American culture and a message of peace,” Rozek

said.

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