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Last Updated: Monday, 12 January, 2004, 17:10 GMT
It's only Iraq 'n' roll but I like it

By Chris Hogg
BBC correspondent in Baghdad

There is not much for teenagers to do in Baghdad. The kinds of things young people elsewhere take for granted are impossible, mainly due to the poor security situation in the Iraqi capital.

Electric guitar
Electric guitars are not often heard in public in Baghdad
But some in the city are determined to try to get back to normal, like the organisers of what's thought to be one of the first post-Saddam Hussein heavy metal concerts at a community centre in the suburb of Karada.

The crowd sit in the dark, waiting expectantly. Then a slight figure in a black T-shirt lurches forward into the light.

Walid Rabiyah has spent hundreds of dollars of his own money on this gig and he, for one, is determined to have a good time.

Right from the start, the crowd is with them. There are few other places in the world where a heavy metal concert by a bunch of amateurs would make the headlines, but this one, in an upmarket suburb of Baghdad, has attracted a lot of attention.

Iraq's teenagers do not have many opportunities to let their hair down.

"It's a way that we can express ourselves," says Walid, who is the band's lead singer.

"All this rage and all this bad situation and all these bad atmospheres and bad feelings that we have endured all this time - trying to let it out in one day."

Curfew

The gig is taking place in a community centre just three blocks from where a huge car bomb went off a few days before.

It is the middle of the afternoon, a strange time to stage a concert. But few people would venture out here after dark, says the band's sound engineer, Bara Safah: "Because of the curfew and the situation right now, we need to play from 3pm to 6 or 7."

Has it stopped people enjoying themselves?

Young men loitering on Baghdad street corner
There is very little for young people to do in Baghdad
"No, no," he says as a muffled explosion is heard. "Sorry, this is bombing."

The dull thud of another bomb going off elsewhere in the city is hardly audible, but the glass doors of the building shake.

No-one bats an eyelid. Such incidents are part of everyday life here now.

Hamza Mohammed, who has come to show her friend some support, says they have had to be careful. Concerts like this can attract the unwelcome attentions of religious extremists.

"Not everybody's accepting this thing," she says. "It's like it's over the limit. We're supposed to be still in a war but there are still people trying to live. We're just trying to skip stuff and just calm down for a bit, live your life and then have a break, timeout, have fun and go back to life. So just escaping, I guess."

The concert reaches its climax as the light begins to fade. Walid Rabiyah is exhilarated, but he's also relieved.

"Thank God, I mean, nothing really bad happened, first of all, and second, it was really good. We had some difficulties but it was good and thank God for that. And thank God that the people liked it."





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