SOAS University of London

SOAS Ceilidh Band performs in northern Iraq

16 April 2013
Ceilidh Beyond Borders

A recent tour by SOAS Ceilidh Band included a performance in northern Iraq.

The band played to an enthusiastic crowd of several thousand, to celebrate Nowruz, the Kurdish New Year. After a two-hour drive from Zakho to Duhok, in the back of a chicken truck, the band performed on an open air stage with a backdrop of dramatic hills, engaging a willing audience with Celtic melodies and a rousing sea shanty.

The tour had begun with a concert at the Istanbul International Community School (IICS), which has good links with SOAS, University of London. On St Patrick’s Night they were the main band for a celebratory dance in the James Joyce Bar, just off Istanbul's famous Istiklal Street.

Ceilidh Beyond Borders
SOAS Ceilidh Band performing in Iraq, a trip organised by the music charity Ceilidh Beyond Borders

The band’s organiser Ed Emery said: “It’s been an amazing few weeks. We met so many lovely people. In fact, we met several Kurds from Hackney while we were out there! And when we came back we had the delight of doing a ceilidh at SOAS which actually featured Kurdish dancing.”

SOAS alumnus Stuart Graham, who is the guiding spirit behind the music charity Ceilidh Beyond Borders, and who organised the Iraq section of the tour, said: “It was brilliant to have the SOAS band teaming up with ‘Ceilidh beyond Borders’, and the way we all gelled together musically was very impressive.”

In February, the Ceilidh Band headed for Paris to do a Valentine’s Day Ceilidh, and the tour featured a stop-over in Calais to give musical support to the Migrant Support Group, as well as a micro-ceilidh halfway up the Eiffel Tower and some mournful singing in the Paris Catacombs. They met musicological colleagues from the Paris universities, and made plans for a mini SOAS World Music Festival to be held in the city. And for their next big challenge, they are now laying the groundwork for a musical tour to Iran in 2014.

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SOAS Ceilidh Band on tour to Iraqi Kurdistan - March 2013

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