20 Kanoon I 6754
Volume X

Issue 50

10 December 2004


Fax 1-415-358-4778

Elias Zazi

Assyrian Musician & Composer

Sodertalje, Sweden



This Week in Zinda
  The January 2005 Elections in Iraq Fred Aprim
Good Morning Assyria
  Iraq’s Christians Rely on Expatriate Votes  
News Digest

Dr. Arsan Presents Assyrian Case at European Parliament


D.C. Conference: "Religious Freedom in Secular Turkey"


  Attacks against Churches in Iraq George Haddad
  Elias Zazi Ninos Maraha
The Lighthouse
Feature Article(s)

The January 2005 Elections in Iraq

A Perspective on the Indigenous Syriac-speaking Christians of Iraq-including Assyrians, Chaldeans and Suryani (Syriacs) and where they Stand on the Iraqi National and the Kurdish Regional Elections

Fred Aprim

The Iraqi national elections scheduled for January 30, 2005 are going to elect the 275 representatives of the Iraqi National Assembly (parliament).  The people in north of Iraq's Kurdish enclave will additionally elect the 111 members of the Kurdish Regional Parliament in north of Iraq.

On Wednesday, December 1, 2004, the leaders of the two major Kurdish political parties, Masoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), announced their agreement on presenting a single Kurdistan electoral list to compete in the Iraqi national elections, as well as for the election of a new Kurdish parliament. This united single list included the KDP, PUK, and a number of much smaller parties, many of which have been getting their salaries from these two dominant Kurdish parties.

How are the indigenous Syriac-speaking Christians of Iraq (Assyrians, Chaldeans and Syriacs) going to be represented in these two elections and under what name or merit?

A Courageous Demand

Last Thursday (December 2, 2004), and in a courageous and responsible step, His Holiness Mar Emmanuel Delli, Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, called Masoud Barazani, head of the KDP, and demanded that Assyrians and Chaldeans be recognized as one people and under one name. Under such direct demand from the highest Christian authority in Iraq, the Kurdish authorities gave in and the previous designation of "Assyrians and Chaldeans" as two separate nations, ratified some two weeks ago by the Kurdish parliament that is under the KDP and PUK influence, was defeated. The indigenous Syriac-speaking Christians of Iraq, i.e. Assyrians, Chaldeans and Suryan (Syriacs), will be recognized as one people under the "ChaldoAssyrian" name. This is similar to how they were recognized by the March 8, 2004 Iraqi Transitional Administrative Law (TAL). The ADM had threatened earlier that if the Kurdish parties separated the ChaldoAssyrian people into separate groupings as "Assyrians and Chaldeans," it was going to withdraw from the Kurdish parliament.

His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, the patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, is yet to take similar steps. The silence of Mar Dinkha concerns many within both communities, especially in these peremptory times. Since unity requires a reciprocating action from two sides, one should hope that this continuous silence by Mar Dinkha will not force Mar Delli from taking a regrettable move where the Chaldeans are forced to go on their separate path.

The Iraqi National Assembly (Parliament)

There were 226 religious and political groups and individuals qualified and approved to participate in the Iraqi national elections. The Christians have the followings:

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a) Individuals:

  1. Hikmat Dawood Hakim (Independent)

b) Political Organizations:

  1. Assyrian Democratic Movement (Younadam Kanna)
  2. Chaldean Democratic Union Party (Abd al-Ahad Afram)
  3. Assyrian Patriotic Party (Nimrod Baito Youkhana)
  4. Assyrian National Assembly (Audishoa Malko)
  5. Chaldean National Congress (Fouad Raheem Bodagh)
  6. The Syrian (Syriac) Independent Group (Isho' Majid Hadaya)
  7. Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party (Romeo Hakkari)
  8. Patriotic Union of Beth Nahrain (Giwargis Khoshaba Michael)

c) Religious Organizations:

  1. Christian Democratic Party (Minas Ibrahim)
  2. Brotherhood Democratic Union (Its leader Shmouel Jajjo al-Botani has passed away)

d) Groups influenced by Iraqi and Kurdish patriotic movements:

  1. Kurdistan Labor Democratic Party (Yousuf Hanna Yousuf)
  2. The National Assembly (Hana' Edward George)

Unity is the only answer for the Syriac-speaking Christians of Iraq in general and other Christians whose heritage was the Syriac language; however, they speak Arabic or Kurdish today because of policies of Arabization and Kurdification. The Nestorian Assyrians need their brethrens, the Chaldean Assyrians, because the numbers of the former group is comparably low.  The Chaldeans need the Nestorians because for all practical purposes political legitimacy and national struggle has been fought under the Assyrian name or the French Assyro-Chaldeanne (English Chaldo-Assyrian) in few cases. It is safe to claim that neither group can make it on its own in these troubled times in Iraq. Therefore, let us leave history aside for now and look at the unifying ChaldoAssyrian compromise as a political step reached for the sake of our survival in our ancestral home.

The ADM is working on two ends. First, to establish a united list that will include most of the other Assyrian Chaldean Suryani (Syriacs) groups that believe in the unity of our one-people, accept the Chaldo-Assyrian name, and enter the election through that list as an independent group. This list will have as well the support and blessing of our church leaders in Iraq. The second is to enter the elections through alliances of this ChaldoAssyrian list with certain technocrats, secular, patriotic, and progressive Iraqi groups.

The Kurds have formed a united Kurdistan list, with which they will enter both the north of Iraq regional and Iraqi National parliaments. Certain of our groups are included in this list including Chaldean Democratic Union Party (CDUP) of Abd al-Ahad Afram and Assyrian Patriotic Party (APP) of Nimrod Baito. To our information, the ADM is not part of this list as of this hour.

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As I stated, the Kurds have completed setting up their united list of 111 names for the Kurdish Regional Parliament. In some strange and peculiar interpretation for the principles of democracy, the two major parties of the KDP and PUK control 84 seats of the total 111 (42 for each group). This system will guarantee the absence of any viable parliamentary opposition and is designed to monopolize power in the Kurdish regional parliament. This system is in fact equivalent to the basic definition of a dictatorship. These non-democratic practices are not new to the tribal nature of the KDP and Barazani.

In 1992, the ADM had no other option but to join sides in order to have an organized movement. The ADM could not operate in Baghdad, and under the regime of Saddam Hussein there was no other option but to work with the Kurds. The Kurds were under the microscope since the establishment of the No-Fly Zone in 1991 after the Gulf War. They needed to present themselves as democratic people. They offered the Assyrians five seats in their 105-member parliament. Four seats were won by the ADM and a Christian group supported by the KDP won the fifth seat through fraud.

Things changed with the liberation of Iraq in 2003 and the fall of Saddam Hussein. The ADM is not accepting the unfairness and unjust acts of Kurds because ADM's leadership has an option today in free Iraq. The ADM is making its decisions based on the principle that we are ONE people with different names; however, and unfortunately, we have some misguided individuals among us who for one reason or another refuse to support each other or they have complete obligation to the KDP.

In the new Kurdish regional parliament, five of the 111 seats are designated for the indigenous Syriac-speaking Christians as follows:

1. Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) – 2 seats
2. Chaldean Democratic Union Party (CDUP) - Abd al-Ahad Afram – 1 seat
3. Chaldean Cultural Society (CCS) – 1 seat
4. Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party (BNDP) - Romeo Hakkari – 1 seat

The Assyrian Patriotic Party (APP) – Nimrod Baito, CDUP, CCS, and BNDP have joined in a separate alliance under the wings of KDP and are part of the Kurdistan single list as well.

Where Will we End?

If all the estimated 15 million Iraqi-eligible-voters cast their votes, then the threshold number for every member of the Parliament is to win 54,454 votes (15 million divided by the 275 seats in the National Assembly). The Kurds, meanwhile, have roughly 2 million eligible voters; hence, they will obtain 37 to 40 seats in the Iraqi National Assembly (parliament). The question to ask here is: Will any of the CDUP, CCS, BNDP, or APP representatives be given the chance to hold any of the 37 to 40 seats in the Iraqi parliament?

I doubt that the BNDP will, since Romeo Hakkari is comfortable in Arbil and in my opinion and the opinion of many other observers, will remain there as a representative in the Kurdish Regional Parliament. The CCS cannot muster any weight or influence to justify its presence in Baghdad, so it will remain in Arbil as well. There remain two groups: Abd al-Ahad Afram's CDUP and Nimrod Baito's APP. In my opinion, the Kurds will use both these two individuals and their groups as part of their 37 to 40 members block in the Iraqi National Assembly to be used against the united ChaldoAssyrians and the ADM.

I should remind the reader that all this is part of a wide political maneuvering by all parties involved. One does not know where this and that group will stand tomorrow as each group will assess the benefits of being independent or a part of a larger alliance with other groups. I guess we will all know soon when all the lists are made public.

Learning from Our Neighbors

Assyrians (ChaldoAssyrians in Iraq) must learn from the Kurdish example. The Kurds have been literally killing each other , most recently in the bloody fights to control Arbil in 1996 when the KDP collaborated with the Iraqi army and Saddam Hussein to chase the PUK out of the city. Why did they decide to work together? Because they want to control the maximum possible seats in the Iraqi parliament. What is wrong with these smaller Assyrian and Chaldean groups? Why can't they put their differences aside and work with the more powerful ADM for the benefit of our people? If a leader feels the pressure from another group and cannot make the courageous decision to unite with his own, such leader must resign his post and give his responsibilities to those who have what it takes to stand tall and proud and make the tough decisions or dissolve his small group. This is not about democracy; there is no true democracy in Iraq, as we understand it in the Diaspora. The name of the game is power and if smaller Assyrian groups do not understand this, they should not be in politics as they could do more damage than good.  They could be used by the enemy and that is what is happening now. Now if the bigger group proved unworthy to lead, it could always be voted out in the next election. However, it must be given a chance to perform while it is supported by the majority in these crucial times.

If a leader is not healthy enough to perform his duties to the fullest, such leader should resign his post; we need leaders who can muster every bit of energy in these troubled times.

Preparing for all Possibilities

There have been many calls by political groups, religious figures, and few Iraqi government officials for the postponement of the elections due to the unrest and lack of security in many of the central Iraqi regions and in Mosul to the north (mainly Sunni populated areas). Many European leaders agree. However, President Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Iraqi President al-Yawar and Prime Minister Ayad Alawi, and many government officials in those three countries continues to promise to hold the elections on its scheduled time. The United States is sending additional troops to Iraq, bringing the total figure to 150,000 troops in order to secure the elections. Could these 150,000 troops with the much morally and physically broken Iraqi forces succeed to sustain stability for the elections? It seems to me that the insurgency is much organized than it has been anticipated. It is safe to assume today based on the number of attacks on U.S. soldiers, contractors working with the coalition forces, Iraqi forces, and their stations that the terrorists are well spread across Iraq. Observers doubt that these terrorists will allow the elections to take place, as they will increase their devastation, sabotage, and attacks on civilians to discourage voters from taking part in the process.

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The United States and the Coalition Forces quickly approaching a real test in Iraq. Will the most powerful country on earth succeed to enforce democracy on a group of well-organized Sunni Arabs, backed by Wahabi fanatics from the neighboring states? How could the United States compensate and satisfy the Sunnis of Iraq who never shared power with other Iraqis and lost great benefits since the fall of Saddam Hussein? How could the United States pacify the hatred of Islamists who look at democracy and moderation as a threat to their existence?

I do not see how the Diaspora Iraqi Assyrians (known also as Chaldeans and Suryan or much loosely Syriacs) could participate in the elections. We are yet to see a mechanism through which such voting could be exercised. The Assyrians of the United States are spread in New York, Detroit, Chicago, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Turlock, Modesto, San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. It is just not practical to ask thousands of people to fly thousands of miles to vote, especially when it has been suggested that there will be one voting place in the United States. The same is true for Canada and Australia, with one voting place in each country. Assyrians will stand to lose approximately 150,000 to 200,000 votes in these three large countries alone because of their spread and the non-presence of multiple voting stations. So, what are the Diaspora Assyrians going to do?

We really do not have the answer to these questions for now and we are not sure whether the elections will take place or not. Furthermore, many of the groups mentioned above are newly formed after the fall of the Ba'ath regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Most of them and for all practical purposes exist on paper only and we must analyze their formation thoroughly before we support them. Additionally, it seems that we are going to count on the votes of our people in Iraq only, unless those refugees in Syria and Jordan were included.

As indigenous people of Iraq, the ChaldoAssyrians, and all Syriac-speaking Christians throughout the world for that matter, must empower themselves with wisdom and give the leaders and groups that are calling for our unity a chance to lead us. We must give those calling for unity and those who our people in Iraq have entrusted throughout the last few decades the chance to fight for our rights. Let us for once take the responsibility and put every group where it belongs. Let us appreciate the true diamond and let us call that fake one for what it is … worthless.


Good Morning Assyria

Iraq’s Christians Rely on Expatriate Votes

Courtesy of the Middle East Online
9 December 2004
By Salwan Binni

(ZNDA: Baghdad)  With more Iraqi Christians living abroad than in their home country, their divided leadership here is hoping expatriate votes will help win parliamentary seats and reaffirm the minority's historical identity.

"We've been here for hundreds of years. We should be regarded as first-class and not third-class citizens as we were being treated under Saddam's regime," said Fouad Boudagh, head of the National Chaldean Council.

Iraqi Christians, who make up just three percent of Iraq's 26 million people, are estimated to number more than one million expatriates.

About 200,000 Iraqi Christians live in the US city of Detroit alone, Emanuel Shaba Yokhana of the Assyrian Patriotic Party said.

"They can help us win at least 15 seats in the next Iraqi National Assembly," he said.

Iraqis are to elect a transitional 275-member national assembly on January 30, the country's first free elections in half a century.

The new assembly will almost certainly be dominated by parties from the Shiite majority, but Christians, represented by eight political parties, are also hoping to get a small slice of the action.

The new assembly will write a permanent constitution, which if adopted in a referendum will form the basis for another poll to be held by December 15 next year.

Iraq's Christians, who feel marginalized by the majority Arab Muslims, are hoping to influence the new constitution and reestablish the historical identities of the Assyrian, Chaldeans and Syriac Christians.

Their desire stems from the fact that these groups lived in what is now Iraq before Arabs arrived from the Arabian peninsula.

"Our heritage as Iraqi Christians is fading. Over time, we have become accustomed to an Arabic style of thinking,” says Ashur Yackub of the Bethnahrain Patriotic Union.

The country's provisional constitution, signed in March, guarantees freedom for all religions, but it has not assuaged the anxieties of the small Christian community - based mostly in Baghdad and Mosul - amid the torrent of violence and identity politics sweeping Iraq.

Churches in Iraq have been targeted in bomb and gun attacks since Saddam Hussein's ouster in April last year.

Christian leaders say they do not think the elections will result in an Islamic state similar to the one in neighbouring Iran, and they all agree on the importance of a secular Iraqi state where freedom of faith is guaranteed.

Eight parties are representing Christians, but they are siding with different coalitions in the electoral race.

Some leaders said the division was due to attempts by big parties to swallow up newly-formed smaller ones.

"We agreed first to introduce a one unified list, but the Assyrian Democratic Movement messed everything up," said Yashu Majeed Hadaya, head of the Syriac Independent Gathering.

The attacks on Christian targets have led the parties to adopt a low profile.

Most parties use small houses around Baghdad for their headquarters, with no external signs revealing the identity of the occupants.

While some imams in mosques urge voters to register and vote in favor of certain sides, Christian churches are not used for electoral purposes.

"At first we thought of using churches to tell people who we are and urge them to register" says Farid Toma Hirmiz of the Chaldean Democratic Union. "Because of the security situation, many Christians are no longer church-goers. We will not be able to use churches in our campaign."


News Digest

Dr. Arsan Presents Assyrian Case at European Parliament

(ZNDA: Amsterdam)  Dr. Matay Arsan, a regular contributor to the pages of this publication and a prominent Assyrian activist in Europe presented the Assyrian case on behalf of the Assyrian Academic Society at the European Parliament.  The attendees to the special conference discussed the potential accession of Turkey to the European Community.

Dr. Matay Arsan

Entitled "The EU, Turkey and the Kurds", the conference was jointly sponsored by the the Rafto Foundation, the Kurdish Human Rights Project and Medico International and held in Brussels, between 22-23 November 2004.

The conference presented empirical and analytical reports with conclusions and recommendations on relevant areas such as judicial reform, democratic and parliamentary reform, cultural rights, language rights, freedom of expression, compensation for internally displaced persons, rights for displaced persons to return to their villages etc.

• The conference’s findings will be published and presented to the European Commission for its consideration and comments.

• The conference further discussed a suggestion to establish a European Civic Commission to monitor EU and Turkish compliance with the accession criteria.

Late this month, the European Union (EU) will decide if Turkey is granted a specific date to begin discussions on its accession to EU.

At the end of the conference a resolution was prepared and sent to all European parliamentarians, governments and relevant commissions. The Assyrian Christians are mentioned in a special paragraph in the introduction to highlight their presence and future progress in Turkey.


Surfer's Corner
Community Events

D.C. Conference: "Religious Freedom in Secular Turkey: The EU Effect"

Institute on Religion and Public Policy
Julia Kirby

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Washington D.C.- The Institute on Religion and Public Policy is pleased to announce the convening of a conference entitled “Religious Freedom in Secular Turkey: The EU Effect.” The half-day conference will take place in
Washington, D.C. on December 14, 2004, in Russell Senate Office Building Caucus, Room 385.

In light of the upcoming European Summit on December 17th, the Institute is in the unique position to hold an open forum, discussing issues of religion, citizenship, and democracy in modern Turkey before EU accession negotiations
commence. The Conference is meant to allow scholars, policymakers, journalists and government officials to discuss openly issues concerning the relationship between the state and religious society in Turkey and the potential for change within Europe.

Preliminary Conference Agenda

09:00-09:30 Opening Remarks
09:30-10:15 Panel #1: Islam in the Public Sphere: Turkey and the Challenges of Religious Freedom
10:15-10:45 Question and Answer Session
10:45-11:00 Coffee Break
11:00- 11:45 Panel #2 : Religious Minorities in Modern Turkey
11:45-12:15 Question and Answer Session
12:15-02:00 Lunch and Keynote Speaker
02:00-02:15 Concluding Remarks



Attacks against Churches in Iraq

George Haddad

During a few weeks only, a third wave of outrageous bombing of Christian churches occurred in Iraq. These bombings of the churches were a disgrace and they cannot be justified with any formative elucidations. These bombings can be considered as an open political manipulation of the events. The perpetrators are not a marginalized reactionary or radical group; they are key players in the Iraqi scene. This group has strategies and goals that pertain to the structural historical formula and cultural identity for both the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people. From the viewpoint of Iraqi nationalism, Arab nationalism and the viewpoint of scrupulous Islamism, I am going to present to you the following remarks

1. The Iraqi Christians did not welcome the American occupation; on the contrary, they confirmed their nationalism and their adherence to Arabism without relinquishing their Christianity.

2. The Iraqi Christians were always a genuine part of Mesopotamian culture and were loyal to the Iraqi government. Their Christianity was not imposed from the outside; it is undoubtedly oriental.

3. Historically, Iraqi Christians were always an operative element in the establishment of the Arab-Islamic Empire. They contributed a lot to the Islamic culture as they translated many books from Greek and Indian into Arabic. There were also many Christian doctors and philosophers in Iraq. Hence, one cannot separate between the historical cultural role of the Christians in Iraq and the Arab-Islamic culture.

4. The attacks against the churches in Iraq remind us of what happened to the Iraqi Jews after the establishment of the state of Israel. International Zionism, the U.S. and Britain were surprised to see that Iraqi Jews did not respond to the Zionist call to immigrate to Israel. The underground organizations and the Zionist apparatuses in collaboration with the Iraqi monarchy at that time started to organize a wave of explosions and attacks against the Iraqi Jews in order to drive them to flee Iraq. This is exactly what drove the Iraqi Jews to go to Israel.

After discussing these very important remarks one must ask: who are the people behind the attacks on the Christian churches and who is supporting them? Perhaps the first and easiest accusation is directed towards the Islamic radical groups. However, if we look at these crimes from a criminal investigation point of view, and ask who is benefiting from these attacks, it would not be difficult to discover that the American occupation, international Zionism and Israel get the real benefits from such attacks.

No matter how much the Americans, the Israelis and the Zionists delved into their conspiracies and crimes, and even if the succeeded to a certain extent in "Lebanonizing" Iraq, their general efforts in doing so will not succeed - history is not on their side.



Elias Zazi

Ninos Maraha

New Year’s Eve might not be the best time for an interview, yet it is here that I meet a relaxed and smiling Elias Zazi. The smile that so perfectly characterizes this man. Elias always carries this smile on his face and has a quick-witted reply up his sleeve.

Our meeting place is Wayne’s Coffee, a cozy cafeteria in Sodertalje [Sweden] owned by Elias' famous brother, the singer Aboud Zazi. We sit in the smoking section on the upper floor, but it is not because of Elias that we sit there. In the early 80’s Elias was known as the "tea-drinking DJ".

To me Elias has always been Aboud Zazi’s humorous brother, a piano teacher to my little sister, and a DJ a the Assyrian parties.  I always knew how good of a musician Elias is, but not to the extent that I know now. I became aware of that in November of last year on that historical day when his string quartet, String Quartet in e Minor", performed for the first time ever at the Orchestra Hall in Sodertalje. It was a big day for Elias Zazi, but a bigger one for the Assyrian people.

"Since it was a first-time performance there could either be tomatoes or applauds. I got standing ovations, which is the best thing that you can have"
      - Elias tells on his experiences as a music critique in the local newspaper, the 'LT'.

Elias had been working with his string quartet for a long time and had no time to become nervous before the concert. He honestly admits that he was shaking in his entire body while the string quartet was performing. It was very relieving when people, both Assyrian and Swedes, congratulated him on the achievement of composing beautiful western classical music and also be the first Assyrian to achieve this.

Elias Zazi,  Assyrian musician, composer and musical critic.  Photo by Moussa Esa for Hujådå Magazine

"The best thing was that many Assyrians recognized something Assyrian in my string quartet. The oriental influences came directly from my heart, nothing that I thought about," Elias says and adds that he became very proud when some Assyrians told him that this was huge and that they couldn’t see how huge it was, because that would be something for the future to tell.

Elias Zazi was born in Lebanon in 1964, moved with his family to Sweden in1976, and since 1979 has been living in the “Europe’s Assyrian capital”; Sodertalje. As a person he is very open and humble, with a big heart for his people. The western music struck his fancy early and in 1983 he won the competition “Stockholm's No. 1 DJ”. When he got married he realized it would be a problem combining family life with late DJ-nights. Instead he began to study the oriental music and its endless number of scales.

"At home I have concluded a list with approximately 100 oriental scales," Elias says and explains that many times only 2 or 3 of these scales are used in the Assyrian folk music, while those which make up the Assyrian pop songs use 3 or 4 different music scales that don’t include quarter tones.

The interest for the oriental music made him produce the Assyrian musical "The Dreamer Sonata", which had its première in 1996. Then Elias began to put more focus on western classical music and began listening to the famous composers’ music. After a while he realized that they were not that good. This is when the Swedish radio channel of classical music, P2, made its entrance in his life:

"Since P2 presents the composer after the music is played, I could conclude a list of the music that I liked, without having any preconceived notions about the composers," Elias says and lists his favorites: Beethoven, Brahms, Tjajkovskij, Dvorak, and Fauré.

The growing interest for classical music made Elias to dive deeper in his musical studies. He took 30 lessons with the music teacher John Lidstrom, and as soon as the string quartet was complete he visited Professor Lars-Erik Rosell at the Composers Program at the Royal Institute College of Music in Stockholm.  He asked the professor if his string quartet had any shortcomings. The string quartet was in fact fully approved and according to the professor it could be performing in all levels. And it did.

Elias got very good reviews in the newspapers and the Chairman of the Chamber Music Association in Sodertalje said that “this proves that one still can compose modern art music that is beautiful to listen to”. Elias wishes to erase the myth that you have to learn to listen to the classical music in order to like it. He makes a comparison with art to explain what he means.

"If I show you an abstract painting you will probably say that you don’t understand it or don’t like it, but if I explain just a bit what the painting is about, you will want to explore the painting by yourself. It’s the same thing with the classical music (art music)."

We continue to talk about music and after a few cups of coffee and cigarettes (for me), we enter into the field of Assyrian music, which today is a mix of folk music and pop. Elias thinks that our music is primitive and that we need to develop it:

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"It’s bad if we continue to step on the same spot, but if we put some classical music into the Assyrian music, it will stand on a better ground. Unlike the pop music, you don’t easily become bored listening to classical music, because it has several pieces and has a lot to explore. The folk music is in our blood and will therefore last, but if we take a theme from it and put it in the classical music and develop it, we could develop our music in many perspectives. This is what I tried to do when I produced my string quartet.

The music comes natural for Elias and at the same time he has been very ambitious and has studied hard - both the oriental and the western music. He grew up with the music of Wadi Al Safi and the Rahbani brothers (famous Lebanese singer Fairouz’s husband and brother in-law), from which he gets his inspiration. Another part of his inspiration he takes from the Assyrian church music and western classical music.

"It is an honor to include our church music and if I don’t find it in the heart I do my best to search or it, unlike the Rahbani music that I never need to search for. It is always present like the classical music."

When it comes to Assyrian music Elias wants to point out Ninib A Lahdo’s music, Habib Mousa’s earlier stuff, and Aboud Zazi, whom he agrees has very nice voice. Elias tells me that he can hear our original tones in the music of many other countries:  "When I listen to Wadi Al Safi, Turkish or Iraqi music I can feel that it originates from our music, since they have the quarter tone of the Syrian-Orthodox music. The music from northern Africa also reminds me of our church music, however the Egyptian does not."

To Elias it is important to promote his Assyrian nationality and create publicity for his people with the help of his music. He loves his people and longs for the day when he becomes well known in the world, and proudly express his origin and the several thousand years of cultural heritage that his people carry on.

With a twinkle in his eyes he tells me that it was thanks to his grandfather’s heavy ears that he got his love for the Assyrian language and cultural heritage, because his grandfather didn’t let him and his brothers and sisters speak Arabic at home. Today, Elias is a celebrity in Sodertalje where he works as a laboratory technician in AstraZeneca, and devotes his spare time reviewing music concerts for the LT, a Sodertalje newspaper.  "It all started one day when I called the newspaper and told them that I had been living here for 20 years but never read anything about Assyrian music," Elias says.

The editorial staff answered that they had no knowledge of the Assyrian music. Elias immediately offered his services and wrote a large article about the Assyrian music history, which they published. When they discovered his deep knowledge in the classical and oriental music and his writing skill in writing, they began to cooperate with him, and soon he was reviewing music for them: "As an Assyrian music critic, it has been an honor to write about music celebrities such as Gideon Kremer, one the best violinist in the world; the famous conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen, the soprano Barbara Hendricks, the pianists Hans Leygraf, and Roland Pöntinen; the choir conductor, Eric Ericsson; mixed with oriental stars such as Ibrahim Tatlises, Coscun Sabah, Janan Sawa, and Ashur Bet-Sargis.

As an Assyrian music lover it has been an honor to write about Elias Zazi, who is the first and only Assyrian who has been able to produce a string quartet and better yet see it through to perfect performance.

[Zinda:  Mr. Zazi's CD's are available in USA through the Assyrian Academic Society (click here).



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Thank You
The following individuals contributed in the preparation of this week's issue:

Fred Aprim (California)
Dr. Matay Arsan (Holland)
David Chibo (Australia)
Ninos David (California)
Mazin Enwiya (Chicago)
Tomas Isik (Sweden)
Petr Kubalek (Czech Republic)

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