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
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,
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
Powers said the basic message of the performance and
presentation was to push aside fear and encourage openness to other
“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
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
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
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
Powers said the Iraqi people have a strong sense of
“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
Rozek said the presentation’s overall message was to be open to
“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