Seattle Goes Global for an Art for Amnesty Benefit Concert 12/10/08

by Damian Bradley

How better for Seattle to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights than with a world, jazz and rock concert with artists from five continents. Pictured above are Rahim Alhaj, a Grammy nominated Oud player from Iraq and Peter Buck, best known for his work with REM but Wednesday night representing Tuatara and The Minus 5 at Neumos.

The evening began with Indian vocalist Gina Sala, LA Chicano group Quetzal, Seattle via Brazil jazz by Jovino Santos Neto and company with special guest Spanish guitarist Jaco Abel, West African drum group Yeke Yeke featuring Senagalese djembe master Thione Diopp, and an American jazz fusion set by The Wayward Shamans featuring Dave Carter on trumpet.

After some 25 plus musicians had graced the stage, Rahim Alhaj sat alone before the microphone. A month-old citizen of the United States, Alhaj had fled Baghdad and the nearly 30 years of America’s war, sanctions, and continued occupation of his homeland.

Alhaj began with a solemn piece dedicated to the sacred tall trees of Iraq, one of the multitude of his country’s destroyed treasures. Next he coaxed the crowd into clapping a 1-2-3-4 Irish jig beat for a piece he composed in remembrance of his childhood. Alhaj’s mother had quieted him and his siblings with the Irish jig beat and improvisational lyrics:

“At the time Great Britain was the occupying force of Iraq and thus we were exposed to Irish music. I wonder if now Iraqi mothers quiet their children with American Rock and Roll?”

Ready for a “little fun,” Alhaj invited Tuatara and an array of the evenings musicians on stage for his last tune. Tuatara stayed plugged-in as Peter Buck introduced the evenings final shift towards American Rock & Roll as Tuatara and then Minus 5 capped the evening fundraiser benefiting Art for Amnesty.

The worldwide language and joy of music serves as a reminder of what had to be formally declared on December 10th, 1948, by the General Assembly of the United Nations: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

Check out more photos from the evening by Allison Nesis:

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