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Wednesday, 5 February, 2003, 09:01 GMT
Iraqi-Israeli musician's sounds of peace
Yair Dalal
Dalal has played at a Nobel Peace Prize ceremony

Iraqi-Israeli musician Yair Dalal has used his music for peace projects and will find out whether he has won a BBC Radio 3 World Music Award on Saturday.

Between the split camps and entrenched views on Israel and Iraq, Yair Dalal sees himself as "a bridge".

Born in Israel to Iraqi-born parents, he appears to represent the ultimate Middle East anomaly, such is the hostility to each other of the two countries he loves.

It is a "difficult" and "painful" situation, Dalal says - but it is also an opportunity to use music to bring people together.

Yair Dalal
We are people of peace, I am a man of peace, my music is music for peace

Yair Dalal
Continuing the Iraqi traditions of his forefathers, he lives on a kibbutz in the Arava Valley, southern Israel and describes himself as Israeli.

"I am an Israeli who has an Iraqi tradition, Jewish and Arab," Dalal says. "It's nice to be like this because it's like a bridge between the people."

Dalal's parents were Iraqis who were forced out of their homes along with 125,000 other Jews after World War II.

Many, including his parents, settled in Israel, and continued the culture that Dalal describes as "Jewish Babylonian" or "Judaeo-Arab".

"It is a very, very deep heritage and it has a long history including culture and language and music and food and many, many things," he says.

But as Israel and Iraq look set to be on opposing sides in a second Gulf War, Dalal says he is doing all he can to work towards peace.

"We are people of peace, I am a man of peace, my music is music for peace," he says.

Among his peace projects was a concert at the Nobel Peace Prize Gala in 1994, at which he played with 50 Jewish and 50 Palestinian children.

Yair Dalal's Perfume Road concert
His most recent CD, Perfume Road, was released in 2002
He now teaches Arabic music in Israeli schools.

"I believe we should know the music of the neighbours. They like it very much, I have a lot of students," he says.

Music is a powerful tool for making a difference, he says.

"I'm sure that music can bring people together, but the question is if it will be strong enough to push the politicians to make peace between themselves," he says.

Music is Dalal's first love, and as well as being used for peace, his songs have earned him a nomination in the Middle East category of the Radio 3 World Music Awards.

I don't see myself as a museum for music, to play only the old stuff

Yair Dalal
Using traditional desert strings and melodies, his songs also encompass classical European influences, Israeli traditions and instruments from across the Middle East and Asia.

His unique style owes a lot to his "Jewish Babylonian" heritage - but he says he is the only remaining person keeping that musical tradition alive.

Some 90% of the musicians in Iraq before the 1950s were Jewish, he says - but most were forced out, and are now either old or dead.

"So I am the only one that continues this tradition by playing their stuff and creating something new," he says.

"I don't see myself as a museum for music, to play only the old stuff. I want to continue to create in the same spirit."

And his experiences during 20 years as a professional musician have given him an idea for a peace plan with a difference.

"We have to replace the politicians with musicians," he says. "At least we will hear some good music."

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Yair Dalal
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24 Aug 02 | Entertainment
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22 Jun 01 | Middle East
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