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Assyrian Bands in Iraq

Compiled & written by Moneer Cherie.

 

Band: A small ensemble of musicians, that mainly play folk and pop songs, it usually has up to five members, a singer, drummer, keyboard, Guitar and bass player, that’s a short description of an Assyrian band.

I believe the earliest Assyrian “western instruments” bands were formed in the mid 1950’s in the city of Habbaniya, later on, when Assyrians dispersed all over Iraq, many bands formed in different cities including Kirkuk, Baghdad, Nuhadra, Nineveh, Basrah and anywhere which had a large Assyrian community.

Sources for information on this subject are limited to very few interviews, articles, social media and my personal collection. I tried my best to document or highlight early active bands in Iraq, The article is “work in progress”, So please feel free to message me with any useful information, comments or pictures you may have on this subject? And your help will be appreciated and credited.

Writing about Assyrian bands in Iraq, is filled with many obstacles, for example Band’s names may have remained the same but members were frequently replaced; Bands broke up, members joined other established bands or formed their own new bands, making it harder finding out all the musicians and singer’s names for each band over the years, but I hope this would be a good introduction on this subject.

(Please note; the quality of audio in this article might not be perfect, as many of the cassettes that survived are in used condition):

 

 

 

 

Arabella Band founded in Habbaniya, performing here in 1957 in Baghdad, at the US embassy, with first Assyrian Saxophone player Zacharia Odisho.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assyrian Band in Kirkuk (1950s)
(L-R): Walten william, Yousif, Youel Khanania, Emmanuel Benyamin.
Back (L-R): Akshirash Kambar, Veresh Karaken.

 

 

 

Andalous Band – Kirkuk

Photo dated to 1956

1- Warda Khio: Al-Daf (Raq)
2- Benyamin: Drum
3- William John: Accordion
4- Amanuel Markos: Trumpet
5- Henri Karam
6- Paul Markos: Saxophone

 

Photo dated to Mid-1960s:
William: Singing at a social party in Baghdad.
Saxophonist is his brother Wilson,
and accordionists are the late Babajan Yonan,
Avshalim Daniel (photo Ben Yalda).

The Tornadoes

The members of the Tornadoes Band changed:
Originally, they were 5 members:
William Kanoon Cheery: Lead Guitar (Band Leader),
Ben Eramia (Drums),
Wilson Hanna (Vocals),
Dimitri John (Rhythm Guitar)
Oraham Khoshaba (Bass Guitar).

Then Dimitri left the band and Wilson Hana reverted back to playing his instrument (Bass Guitar).
As well as vocals. Oraham Khoshaba became the rhythm guitarist.

Occasionally Johnson Youkhana used to join (the second band) playing the Organ and Accordion. Johnson Youkhana was a talented musician who played Trumpet, accordion, piano and organ.

Then in August 1969 and after graduating with a B.Sc. Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Uni of Baghdad, William Kanoon, left Iraq for graduate studies in London. In 1973 William came to Australia and played with 2 groups for a few years before deciding he had enough.

At Dora Club 14.August.1968

William Kanoon Cheery on guitar
Wilson Ablakhad Shino on drums
Wilson Hana (vocals and bass guitar)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tornadoes: Performing at the University of Baghdad,
College of Engineering in 1968
From L to R:
Ben Eramia: Drums
Dimitri John: Rhythm Guitar
Wilson Hanna(vocals & bass guitar)
William Kanoon Cheery: Lead guitar
Oraham Khoshaba Gabriel: Bass Guitar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

J. Jones Band

1. Jacob Aziz: Saxophone
2. Awesha: Guitar & Singer
3. Johnny abu Don: Guitar
4. Dawka: Drummer

 

 

 

 

 

J. Jones Band

Played on the first single record by Youaw Iskhaq, produced in Iran 1967, William Kanoon Cheery Played Guitar on record.

 

 

Shawel Malko with Buzz Band

 

The Pals Band – Awimalk Haidar

Awimalk Haidar: Singer and Musician, played with couple of band, his 2nd band was called “Pals Band”, photo below, he also released vinyl records in Iraq on Caravan label with Diamond Band (info below)

Pals Band 1966 With Awimalk Haidar on Guitar (2nd from R), and Romeo Hanna on Bass (1st R)

 

Diamond Band

William Ablahad: Guitar
Ashor Y. Nona: Violin
Moshi Youkhannan: Clarinet
George Henry: Drums
William Nicola (Dinkha): Composer/Accordionist

 

Awilamlek Haider Vinyl record released in Iraq with Diamond Band.

 

AKITU Band

From Left:
Robert: Drums
Orahim:  Guitar
Ashur Bet Sargis: Guitar & Singer
Johnson Aghajan: Saxophone

Another Akitu Band photo with Orahim on mic singing – Baghdad

Photo of Ashur Bet Sargis with Hunters Band.

 

Bat Band

David Michael Canoon, original founder of Bat Band. Iraq

Bat Band with Sami Yaqo at Assyrian Sports Club in Dora-Baghdad 1974

David M.Canon: Guitar
Odisho Paul: Organ
Sami Yaqo: Singer
Sam Canon: Drums
Dawood Sargis: Bass

 

 

Singer David Esha with Bat Band at an Assyrian picnic in Baghdad

The Bat Band with Yousif (Oce) Rasho 1986 Baghdad
Oce Rasho: Singer
David Canoon: Guitar
Robert Canoon: Drums
Nabeel Khamo: Orgen
Zaya Youkhanna: Bass

Sang by: Oce Rasho with Bat Band, Iraq 1986 party.

 

Bat Band: (US branch) released few studio albums in America with different band members, this is the 1982 cassette cover with:

Hikmat Tammo: Bass
Edward Notali: Keyboard
John Rustan: Guitar
Shimshon Michael: Drums

#1 – Yalkhto Beteh (Vocal: Edwar) produced in USA

 

Black Birds Band 1970-1972

(photo taken in Sarsank – North Iraq)

David Esha: Singer
James: Guitar (right)
George M. Lawandow: Keyboard
Menas: Bass (left)
Hikmat: Drums

 

 

Los Bravos Band

 

1967 Dora-Baghdad

1968 Dora-Baghdad

Amo Simon: Guitar and Singer (with mic)
Rennie Daniel: Guitar (2nd from left)
Robin George: Bass
Donny George: Drums

 

The Dreamers

Assyrian Club in Kirkuk, the 70’s
Alexander Yousif: Guitar

George Elias – Rose Band

His first band was named Rose Band in 1973 in Baghdad, they played at Ur Family club, with his sister Suaad Elias and the late Guitarist Oshan Chano.

George Elias: Singer
Oshan Chano: Guitar & backup singer

 

 

Spiders

 

 

Albert Oscar Baba with Spiders band in Iraq

Albert Oscar on Guitar with Spiders band – Iraq

(Al-Barak) released tape by Albert Baba with Spiders band.

 

77 Band

Band was established in Baghdad in the early 70s and it remained till late 80’s

Singer: Tony Andrews
Guitar & vocalist: Robert
Keyboard and backup vocals: Johni Younadim
Drums: James Younadim
Bass: Thaher

The band released an album with the late George Khamis in 1979 produced by Al-Baraq Music shop. album contained 11 tracks

 

Reek Band ريك باند

This photo is of the band’s singer Tony Andrews (arrow), this photo was taken in 1979 at the public Social club in Iraq, Tony is also the son of king Biba’s brother, next to him in this picture is Robert on Guitar, this photo is actually of the (77 Band).

The Pilots band

Youel Talia (marked with yellow star), was the drum player and also singer, and later was member of Why-band. He released three albums, two in Assyrian and one in Arabic.

 

Season Band

 

Season Band, named by the people of Kirkuk. The singer of the band was Edmon Season, he begun singing in 1983 with band till 1990, but later moved to Baghdad and joined “We Boxer” band in till leaving Iraq in 1994

Season Band members in Kirkuk 1983:
Singer & Guitar: Edmon Season
Shmael: Drum
Fareed: Keyboards

 

WE Band

 

Early We-band members from the 1970s

Aprim Iskhaq Barwari: Organ
Robert Iskhaq Barwari: Guitar
David Santana: Drums
Salim Esho: Bass Guitar

One of the oldest bands, and was formed in Baghdad, This photo was taken in Baghdad with Ogin Bet-Samo on Guitar next to the keyboard player. (Photo taken at the Assyrian National club – Baghdad).

Band members in above photo:
Singer: Johnson Gabriel (seated)
Keyboard: Edwar William
Guitar: Ogin Bet Samo
Drums: Sargon Daniel
Bass: Youbert Yokhanna

 

Ogin Bet Samo photo with We Band in Iraq, he was member from 1976 to 1979 (photo taken at New Year party in district-52 club)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo taken in Mosul

Singer (R) with Mic: Laith
Guitar: Faris Esho
Drums: Sufyan
Bass: Salim

We Band in 1980 at Assyrian Sports Club in Dora Baghdad. with 1980s band members

Salem: Bass
Youbert: Drums
Adwar: Keyboards
Sargon: Guitar

We Boxer Band

Later, the remaining We band members joined Boxer-band and formed a new band called “We Boxer” band.

Released an album in 1984 in Iraq

Lyrics & Music: Edwar William
Singer: Edwar William

Musicians:
Edwar William: Organ, Violin, Bass
Napoleon Shimon: Guitar
Salman (Sam) Shlimon: Drums

 

Also in 1993 We Boxer band released an album with Edmon Season as the singer (Cassette cover below):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shamiram Band

Emmanuel Bet Younan with Shamiram Band in Kirkuk 1980’s, he formed the band in 1981.

 

Nahren Band – Ankawa (Erbil)

Nahren Band – Ankawa 1983

Singer & Guitar: Syrop (Aziz) Kanon (star)
Drummer: Ramzi
Bass Guitar: Woodman Darman (right pic)
Keyboards: Emmanuel

 

 

Sweet Band

One of the most known bands in the 1980’s in Baghdad was SWEET BAND

From 1990 to 1992:
Salem Sefo: Singer
Joseph Isaac: Drums
Eisho George: Keyboards
Benjamin Isaac: Bass Guitar

The Band released a number of cassettes which featured Salem Sefo singing cover songs of Assyrian hit songs, with an amazing and talented band members including; Eisho George on Keyboards, the band won over the heart of Assyrians in Iraq and to this day their numerous parties are remembered fondly by their fans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The band released a live Cassette of cover versions in 1993 in Iraq, this time the band singer was Zaya Zamara (in red), and album featured a female singer by the name of Fayrooz Francis. Keyboard players on this tape were Ebriss and Nisha. (Original tape cover on left).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From 1993
Zaya Zamara: Singer
Joseph Isaac: Drums
Ebriss & Nisha: Keyboards
Benjamin Isaac: Bass Guitar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bee Band (B-Band)

An old photo of Bee Band with the late Biba just visible on the left with microphone in hand, not sure of date or location.

 

The Band released a Cassette in 1979 with vocal singer Wilson Younan in Iraq, containing these songs:

1. Khabra Samana
2. KheZyali B’Ayda
3. Yemi
4. Kmat Gashqan
5. Helane
6. Zona Kapora
7. Akh Min Donye
8. Akh Min Donye (2nd Version)
9. Kheshana
10. Qamodee Atkha
11. Jmeelan Moresha

 

Wilson Younan: Guitar & Singer
Romeal Shiba: Bass Guitar
Johnny Dinkha: Keyboard
Muayed Marogel: Drums

 

Brothers Band

1. Sahir Edwar: Solo & Rhythm Guitar (album arranger)

2. Salam: Organ/Keyboards (album arranger)

3. Esmat: Drummer

4. Sargon Shimon: Singer

5. Wisam Edwar: Bass Guitar

 

Nuhadra Band 

Established in 1972 in Nuhadra (Duhok) was one of the main Assyrian bands in north Iraq, played at the Nuhadra club, one of their singers was the famed Janan Sawa,

 

Bright Band

 

 

Sunny Band

Edward Bet Younan: Drum
Sargon El Moreno: Guitar
Yousif Yalda: Bass
Younan: Keyboards

 

Pylon Band

This photo was taken in 1983, band members are:

Pylon band 1983 standing from left me
top L: Rafael
top R: Yousif Yalda
Yousip Kamal
Loay

 

This photo was taken with Pylon Band members and Bright band members in Baghdad.

 

Nahrain Band (Ankawa)

 

 

Snake Band

Photo taken in 1989

Meikel Michael: Bass
Ashur Sabbo
Warda Khoshaba
Zaya
Samir: Bass

 

Signal Band 1993-1994

Singer: Enwia
David Canoon: Guitar
william Wassim: Drums
Martin: Orgen
Jalil: Bass

Signal band at Damor Club, Baghdad 1993 -1994

cover song by Signal band’s singer Anweya Khamo in Iraq 1994

 

 

I would like to thank the few contributors to this article:

William Kanoon cheery, Frank Bright, James JT, Ogin Bet Samo, Mazen E. Adam, Ogin Eramia Shamoon.

Iconic Assyrian Album Covers

Compiled and written by Moneer Cherie

Album covers are an opportunity for singers to make a first impression. The artwork could tell the story of songs and music style in the album, but not necessary, it could just be making an important statement.
But most of our Assyrian covers lack artistic vision, and are mundane and unexciting. I would understand if a new singer uses his own photo on cover, as a gateway to introduce himself to the masses, but what I don’t understand is when after the 10th or 11th album the singer is still only using his or her profile photo on the cover, without any montage or creativity?

Other annoying covers to me are those with singers being shown playing or holding a music instrument on cover; but that instrument is never used in the actual album!

Album covers could be used as a medium to reflect the emotion and tragedies of our nation at a specific period of time in history. The Massacres, The Terrorist attacks, The occupation of Nineveh, The forced deportation, The Genocides, the burning of Churches. But it doesn’t have to be a political statement, it could make a statement about life in general, about Romance, Love, Relationship, Friendships and so on.

As the saying goes “A picture is worth a thousand words”, I believe few singers have over the years tried to tell a thousand worthy words with some of their album pictures, or at least twenty words! But I guess that’s better than not trying at all. Here are my picks of such covers with statements:

 

Perhaps the most iconic Assyrian album cover has been this by Walter Aziz, released in 1982 as his volume (7) album. The cover depicts the immortal Assyrian General Petros Elia, colored from a black and white photo depicting him in his full military uniform and medals. General Agha Petros was the military leader of the Assyrian independent forces during World War One, fighting for the establishment of an Assyrian homeland in their ancestral land of Mesopotamia. Album was dedicated to his memory, perhaps the last king of Assyria.

 

 

This album with his iconic cover was released by Shlimon Bet Shmuel in 1983 on an LP, painted by Adell Nagi, depicting the never-ending struggle for survival, a struggle that continue to this day; the looting of our artifacts, the forced deportation and migration of our people from their ancestral homeland, the destruction of our heritage and identity. Shlimon is a remarkable composer and nationalist singer, his songs encapsulates all the worries and inspirations of his people.

 

 

The impressive image of an Assyrian winged bull adorn this LP cover, the debut album by Sargon Rasho released in 1982 designed by Edward Gabriel, while being his first album yet the singer didn’t use his own photo on cover, but opted for one majestic photo that summaries the power and glory of the Assyrian Empire, simple but effective. and sent a strong message that you don’t need to always use your own photo on cover, even if its your debut album.

 

 

Elizabeth Oshana released this LP in 1981 in US, with this pose she is paying tribute to her national identity and to her first track in her album “the awakening”, her dress is adorned with the image of the national Assyrian flag, and holding a flame, a beacon of hope. Of course such covers never arrived from the west to middle East as they were banned by the Arab national regimes, that tells you the power of an image.

 

 

LP album by William Daniel released in 1974 pressed in USA, Music composed by William Daniel, titled “Assyria Sings”, William opted to use a painting on the back, name of painter is not clear but might be Shan Toma, it depicts the spinning “yarn” wheel in the center of the image, the background shows the Gate and walls of Nineveh, and threads of fiber shooting from wheel to all directions, the “wheel” symbolizing civilization. Baby cradle representing the very first song of a mother to her child, and the unbroken lineage from the ancient to modern Assyrians, the continuity of people and their culture, dance and music has always been part of our struggle and survival.

 

 

This CD was released by the late Hannibal Alkhas, featuring Helen St. Vincent and Khosrow Soltani. This poems, Songs and instrumental album was released in 2005 and the cover was designed from the paintings of Late Hannibal Alkhas, an accomplished painter and poet. the album was titled Urmie, the cover depicts a panorama of the life of Assyrians in the Urmie region of Iran, before the Massacres and Genocides.

 

 

Mousa Elias released this CD in 2001 with national songs. The cover depicts the tragedies of SAYFO: The World War One Genocide committed by the Turkish government against the country’s Christian inhabitants. Sayfo: meaning “Sword” in Assyrian, represents Turkish army and Kurdish tribes use of the Sword during their “jihad” to butcher civilians while invading cities and villages to rape, plunder and kill unarmed Christians of the Ottoman empire, a tragedy that it will live in infamy.

 

 

Azadoota Band (Freedom): is an Assyrian international band with at least seven members, located in Sydney Australia, Robin Zirwanda is the band’s manager and singer, and he is also the son of the famed Assyrian Iraqi singer Awimalk Haider. This album was released in 2015 with a single song titled Lishana (Our language), telling the world that Jesus spoke our language. With a beautifully designed cover looking like an ancient illuminated Manuscript.

 

 

Another worthy mention is this poetry CD released by Yousip Menashi in 2006 in Sydney Australia, titled “Kela Yema”, cover was decorated with two paintings both originally painted by the Assyrian artist Edward Rassam, with some modifications to original paintings.

 

 

Helen Zaya released this CD in 1999 with a cover adorned by a painting and some graphic design, album was titled Bet Nahrein, and showing the map of our ancestral homeland Iraq “or part of Mesopotamia” in the center of the world. Painted in blood red, and one chained female holding a flame, while the other male figure is holding an Assyrian flag and has freed his hand but with sacrifices, represented in the drops of blood dripping from the chain. In my opinion such covers add value to albums, if I was in the shop and saw such a nice cover, I would be so motivated to buy it.

 

 

George Farag released this Tape in 1986 in Germany, holding Assyrian flag over the ruins of ancestral homeland with mother and child in traditional dress. Assyrian struggle to survive against savage odds in a region that has never stops persecuting his indigenous people, the Middle East the home of death and misery.

 

 

Ninos Nirary released this Poetry Tape in 1993 titled “Message – Agarta”, you can always say so much with a painting than a straightforward photo, while I didn’t have a good quality scan of this cover but I think it is still a good representation of my point in this post, covers that are utilized to send or illustrate a powerful message of what the content of the album are, but also are informing the listeners visually and emotionally of our political struggle.

 

 

PS: To keep the sounds authentic, all tracks used on this page have been recorded directly from the original first edition records, either be it Vinyl, Tapes or CDs. And have not used remastered versions.