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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.

NovaMenco: The Assyrian Guitar Brothers

 

Born in the birth place of civilization, the land that gave humanity; culture, literature, science and music. A family of five brothers born in Beth-Nahrain, modern day Iraq. Nova Menco: The international renowned five Assyrian brothers flamenco Band, based now in San Diego. This Assyrian family of musicians with their modern flamenco style fuses together Jazz, Pop, and ancient Byzantine echoes of Mesopotamia to Sevilla, Lisbon to Ibiza forming a unique blend of Jazz and soft Mediterranean grooves. Their style is similar to the Gipsy Kings.

So far releasing four albums, one released in Spain, and three in US, their Debut album was self titled “Nova Manco” (10 tracks, unknown date), then came: Gypsy Fusion 1997 (12 tracks which landed in the 1998 billboard charts), Flight to Paradise 1998 (12 tracks) both albums self-produced for Botanie Music & dedicated to their parents Mari and Paulus a fourth album released in 2002 titled Fortune Teller, but this time with only three original members.

Musicians (original Band):

Edmon: Guitar
Samoel: Guitar
Nadro: Lead Guitar
Giovanni: Drum & Percussion
Salo: Bass Guitar, Keyboards & Percussion
(Inc. a nephew: Gabriel)

They moved to San Diego in 1995, the brothers dubbed themselves NovaMenco, and set up shop to record and play across the United States and the world. With their flamenco guitars flourishing on stage, NovaMenco craft an eclectic mix of tunes harboring a growing reputation for a crowd-pleasing show. Ever since NovaMenco’s album landed in the 1998 billboard charts, NovaMenco has continued the innovations in Modern flamenco. Their unique fusion of flamenco music has enchanted audiences everywhere. And with the addition of their nephew Gabriel, NovaMenco sounds richer and fuller than ever.

Every CD of NovaMenco is a real life experience and travels around the world. The music of NovaMenco is an attention-getting production with melodies said to evoke an air of distant Mediterranean lands with rhythms that exude feelings of liberation from this earthly existence.

 

Nova Menco, release date (unknown),

copy of the hard-to-find debut self titled album, (autographed by all five members). T#5

Track Listings

1 Gypsy Caravan
2 Effeminado
3 El Rocio
4 Caprice Moro
5 La Flor Del Andaluz
6 Moriendo Cafe
7 Faena
8 Galaxiz
9 El Baile De Los Moros
10 Amor E Som

 

 

 Gypsy Fusion: Landed in the 1998 billboard charts, for 4 weeks at #21

Track Listings

1 Mediterranean Breeze
2 Tigris Palace
3 Spring in Toledo
4 Gypsy Wedding
5 Sahara
6 Alba
7 Lorca
8 Gypsy Fusion
9 El Rio
10 Emotions
11 Journey Intro
12 Journey

#2-Tigris Palace

 

 

Flight to Paradise, released in 1998

Track Listings

1 Flight to Paradise
2 Alligator Alley (played on smooth jazz stations across the USA)
3 Constantinople
4 Silent Kiss
5 When the Dead Come Alive
6 Mood for Love
7 Reckless Dance
8 Purple Meadows
9 Back to San Francisco
10 Remembering Marta
11 At Five in the Afternoon
12 Close to the Edge

#4-Silent Kiss

 

In 1999 two brothers left the band and founded another band named (Nadro John), while three remained and released another album titled “Fortune Teller in 2002 under the original band name “Nova Menco”.

Fortune Teller, released in 2002

Track Listings

1. Woman Of The Palace
2. Let’s Jazz Flamenco
3. Adriana
4. Half Moon
5. Missing You
6. Under The Olive Tree
7. Mesopotamia
8. Byzantine Woman
9. French Quarter
10. Nights In Sevilla
11. Nostalgia
12. Fortune Teller

 

 

 

Nadro John

The two brothers (Nadro & Giovanni) formed a new band called “Nadro John” based in Los Angeles USA, and so far released two solo albums, one in 1999 titled “Escape to Venice”, and the second in 2009 titled “Mediterranean Holiday”.

A fusion of Flamenco Jazz and Rumba, Nadro John combines the spirit and energy that spans from California to Italy, Montreal to Madrid. Discover the music and magic of Nadro John.

 

 

 

 

 

Track titled “When Elephants Fly”, from their “Escape to Venice”, album.

 

 

 

Habib Mousa and other Assyrian Records in West dialect

Habib Mousa was born in Malikiyeh-Syria on October 9, 1952 and raised in Qamishli where he studied at the Syriac school. He was appointed at the age of ten to be the lead singer of the choir after his voice was recognized by Yousef Shamun. Since his early childhood he liked the church melodies that made him a deacon. Church was his source of inspiration and music.

His professional musical career started in 1968 in Qamishli, he was chosen to be the first singer to sing a Folkloric song in the spoken western Assyrian dialect with his first song “Shamo Mar”.
In 1971 Habib Mousa moved to Beirut to play an important role in spreading the modern Syriac folk songs. In Beirut he met the famed Assyrian composer Nouri Iskandar where together released Five records (singles) in modern western Assyrian. These songs are still popular until now.

In 1977 Habib Mousa left Lebanon and immigrated to Sweden. He continued his musical career by carrying out many recordings and live shows both in Sweden and aboard. 

Habib Mousa is considered a giant of Assyrian music in western dialect, and collaborated in his early records with another giant of Assyrian music, the famed composer and conductor Nouri Iskandar.

Nuri Iskandar is considered one of the most important living Assyrian composers, he was director of the Music Conservatory of Aleppo in Syria. He was born in Deir al-Zur to an Assyrian family originally from Urfa in modern-day Turkey. He studied at the higher institute of music at the University of Cairo Between 1959 and 1964 and graduated with B.A degree in music. Left Syria due to war and now is living in Sweden.

 

 

 

Compiled & written by Moneer Cherie For www.Qeenatha.com

 

Habib Mousa released this single in Lebanon by Flex company in 1971, 1-‘Laymoutho w-Hubo, Lyrics by Amanuel Salamon, Music Nouri Iskander 2-Lebi Kriho-Yo, Lyrics by Danho Dahho, Music by Nuri Iskander.

 

 

This single was released in 1971 on Flex label in Lebanon, #7217, with two track 1-O Habibo (lyrics by: Abdelmasih Bisseh) 2-Lo Tehfokh (Lyrics by: Joseph Tazi), Music for both tracks by Nouri Iskander

 

 

This single was released by Habib Mousa in Lebanon on Flex in 1972 with two songs, 1-Zabno Tloumo (feat.Nineweh Aho) 2-Shlome Shlome, both Lyrics written by Shabo Bahe and Music by Nouri Iskander.

 

 

This record was released by Habib Mousa in 1972 with two songs, 1-Zliqe Frisi, lyrics by Shabo Bahe, music Folk 2-G-Rohmo-No O Habibaydi, Lyrics written by Abdelmasih Bisseh and Music by Nuri Iskander.

 

 

This single was released in 1971 by Habib Mousa on Kimaphone label in Syria #7645. came with two songs, 1-Shamo Mar 2-Wardo w Afrem feat.Samira Khouri. both written by Danho Danho and music by Pol Mikhael.

 

 

Worthy of mention is this cassette tape released in 1989 containing 11 Assyrian folkloric songs in the Eastern dialect, completed and Mixed in Nineveh Studio in Sweden, accompanied by four musicians in traditional instruments.

 

 

Fuad Ramzi released this single in 1971 in Syria, on Ershadphon, produced by Hammo Ofestaqchi, Two songs titled (1) Hema u Haye, (2) Noqusho, bother written by Shabo bahe including music.

 

 

Jano Barbar released this record in 1971 in Syria on A.C.A “Qala d Mardutha”, song titles are (1) Talakh Ya Khliti written by Amanouel Salamon (2) Habib At Haye written by Abrohom Lahdo, both music by Nouri Iskander. The song “Habib At Haye” was sung by Jalil Maiilo in 1969 but was distributed as bootleg copy and not on an official record, and as I understand it was sung in a different dialect.

 

 

Pol Mikhayel released this record in Syria in 1971 on Kamichly Kimaphone, song titled: Kmisawri L Quli, Lyrics written by Danho Danho, Music by Pol Mikhayel. song was first recorded before the summer of 1971 in Qamishli, and then it’s Reel-to-Reel (Original Track) was taken to Beirut to be pressed. First version of this song was sung by Habib Mousa in the summer of 1968. Pol has sung another five songs but not officially released.

 

 

This record was released in 1974, Music by Gabriel Assad, the two song are titled (1) Num Habib sung by Georgette Arslan, written by Yuhanon Dolabani (2) Forahto with, sung by Sonya Melek Aho, written by Fawlos Gabriel. produced on Flex-Liban, in Lebanon. #8146 on Izlaphone label.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am including this LP (Long Play) record by Nineb A. Lahdo on this post because this is the only LP record released in the Western Assyrian dialect with secular songs that we know, very few LPs have been released in West dialect, another known example is by a female singer named Alice Lahdu, she released her LP in 1979 in USA but included arabic songs. The other LPs have been church records, which I might write about in the future.

1. Azzen Azzen
Lyrics & Music: Dr. Abrohom Lahdo

2. Zabne U Dore (audio included below)
Lyrics: Ninos Aho
Music: Vania David

3. Rhimto d’Leb
Lyrics: Dr. Abrohom Lahdo
Music: Joseph Malki Khuri

4. Tokhu Tokhu Habibe
Lyrics & Music: Joseph Malki Khuri

5. ‘Al I Hubo Na’imto Hat
Lyrics: Yaqub Marawgi
Music: Ninib A Lahdo

 

Compiled and written by Moneer Cherie

More info available in Volume one book by Abboud Zeitoune’s “Music Pearls of Beth-Nahrin” including biographies, background information and stories.

Aziz Michael passed away

qWith deep sorrow we received the sad news of the sudden passing of a great Assyrian singer Aziz Michael after suffering a heart attack. May God rest his soul in peace. We will miss him but his good memoires and Music will always stay with us and his fans