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Thursday, 6 December, 2001, 17:51 GMT
Chechen singers perform songs of hope
The ruined city of Grozny
Music comes from the ruined city of Grozny
BBC World Service's Outlook travels to Moscow to listen to the haunting tunes of a group of blind Chechen musicians.

Living in appalling conditions in Grozny, they explain how their music has become a healing force.

An unusual concert, held recently at the Moscow Cultural Centre For The Blind, included music performed by a group from the war-torn province of Chechnya.

All of the performers are blind or partially sighted.

They live among the ruins of the capital city Grozny and use music as a way of healing their wounds, whilst drawing the authorities' attention to the situation in Chechnya.

The spokesman for the choir, Gassan Karimov, explained: "In giving this concert, our main purpose was to show that as well as fighters, soldiers and politicians there are also civilians in Chechnya.

"They are peaceful people, people who are more or less prisoners in their own country because of the current situation."

Refuge

Gassan Karimov is totally blind and he and the other members of the choir all live at the Grozny Home For The Blind.

He explained how during the heavy bombardments of the city they sheltered in the cellar of the building.

"When we were in the cellar we listened to the radio and we heard a Russian general saying that if there was no shooting from a building then it wouldn't be shelled," he said.

"We believed him and made no attempt to hide from the Russians."

"When a shell or bomb landed by the home we would go out and measure the depth of the crater with sticks."

"We weren't afraid because we thought that we wouldn't be touched, but unfortunately it seems we were wrong" he added.

Survival

Members of the choir recalled the violence and lawlessness prevalent in Chechnya at that time.

They talk of beatings, interrogations and how even now they struggle to survive.

One choir member commented: "It's a hellish existence. We live behind sheets of plastic, all the glass has been blasted out of our windows, and this is our second winter behind plastic."

"The city is totally out of control."


You can't stop the earth spinning around. You have to keep going

Chechen musician

The choir survives on the members' disability allowances - an estimated $80 (56) per month for six people to live on.

They have endured extreme hardships but this has not dimmed their enthusiasm for singing about their love for Russia.

One performer commented: "We have nine lives like cats. We got through Stalin's deportation of the Chechens to Kazakhstan and we are somehow getting through this.

"You can't stop the earth spinning around. You have to keep going."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Gassan Karimov speaks to Outlook
"We called our programme Far away light"
See also:

03 Sep 01 | Europe
Bomb in Grozny HQ kills one
29 Aug 01 | Europe
Rebels ambush Chechnya convoy
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