Many of Iraq’s most talented musicians fled during the rule of Saddam Hussein, fearing persecution for their political views and suffering from a lack of funding and exposure if they refused to glorify the leader in their art.
Others left after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, escaping violence as war broke out. Concert venues were shuttered. Some musicians were threatened by the Iraqi arm of al Qaeda.
Now, gingerly, some musicians are making plans to come back, hoping to revive Iraq’s rich musical tradition on home soil.
“It does not seem strange now. They call me, they send me messages, they ask me what I have seen,” renowned oud player Naseer Shamma said after a concert in Baghdad, his second in the country after nearly two decades in exile.
“And I say yes, now it is time to work, to help the Iraqi people. Of course every Iraqi musician needs to be here.”
More than 20 bombs hit cities and towns across Iraq on Thursday, killing at least 36 and wounding almost 150, police and hospital sources said, raising fears of sectarian strife in a country whose authorities are keen to show they can now maintain security.
In Baghdad, three car bombs, two roadside bombs and one suicide car bomb hit mainly Shi’ite areas, killing 15 people and wounding 61, the sources said.
Two car bombs and three roadside bombs aimed at police and army patrols in the northern oil city of Kirkuk killed eight people and wounded 26, police and hospital sources said.
“I was trying to stop traffic to let a police patrol pass …A car bomb exploded, I fell on the ground and police took me to the hospital,” a policeman wounded in the face and chest told Reuters as doctors tended him. He declined to be named.
It was Iraq’s bloodiest day since Al Qaeda’s affiliate in the country, the Islamic State of Iraq group, killed at least 52 people with a series of 30 blasts on March 20.
READ MORE: At least 36 killed in wave of Iraq blasts
An Iraqi student shot dead his American teacher and then killed himself in northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region Thursday following an argument, the provincial governor said.
Zana Mohammad Salih gave the American teacher’s name as Jeremiah Small and identified the student as Beyar al-Talabani. The student initially survived the shooting but later died of his wounds in Sulaimaniya Emergency Hospital, the hospital said.
Small’s blog page on the photo sharing website Flickr describes him as a teacher, hailing from Washington State, and based in Sulaimaniya.
Read more: American teacher shot dead in Iraq school