Cigars in the Sand

Commentary, Notes and Pictures from my time in Iraq

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Location: Baghdad, Iraq

Farmer by genetics, Lawyer by training, currently "vacationing" in Iraq and advising the Iraqi government on border security issues. Before moving to Baghdad, I served in the White House as Deputy Counsel for the Homeland Security Council. I can be reached at opusxryanathotmaildotcom.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Music in Iraq

The New York Times publishes a rather dopey article about how rap is the soundtrack of the war in Iraq. The article was plainly written by someone with limited exposure to rap and hip hop culture. It's certainly not surprising that today's soldiers are listening to and creating music that is arguably the most popular form of music today. But when I'm out with soldiers, the soundtrack skips freely between genres: hip hop one song, country the next, classic rock after that. Armed Forces radio used to play all these different types of music in the same program. For some reason now they've gone to "blocks" of the same type of music, and I've heard nothing but complaints.

At least one of the soldiers quoted in the article gets it right:

"As for the soldiers, some say the war has helped break down whatever barriers of race or taste there may have been before among the troops on questions of music. Rap, country, metal - it's all Iraq.

'I guess I don't even see the difference between rap and country anymore, except the beat,' said Specialist Richmond Shaw, 21, who grew up in Pontiac, Mich., and wrote jarring raps in Iraq. 'We're talking about the same things. We're all out here in the middle of this oven. There's nothing going on. It's desolate. We're basically stuck. Dirty, dusty, windy, blowing, miserable.'

'I might be part of the Tupac generation,' he went on, 'but we're all trying to avoid getting shot, and we're all wondering whether people will remember us and we're trying to make difference before we die. Isn't that what country music is about, too?'"

I have an iPod and a set of mini-speakers here with me. On several occasions when I've headed out the border, I've created a playlist that we can listen to when we're stuck far away from Baghdad. Here's a portion of one I prepared for a trip to Basrah:

Sweet Home Alabama- Lynyrd Skynyrd
Let's Stay Together- Al Green
Why Don't We Get Drunk- Jimmy Buffett
Regulate- Warren G and Nate Dogg
Sister Christian- Night Ranger
Overjoyed- Mary J. Blige (yes, I know it's a Stevie Wonder song)
Mountain Music- Alabama
I Want You Back- Jackson 5
You Shook Me All Night Long- AC/DC
Hotel- R Kelly
Against the Wind- Bob Seger
Why Can't This Be Love- Van Halen
Signed Sealed Delivered- Steie Wonder
Luckenbach, Texas- Waylon Jennings

And everyone seemed happy with the list. I guess my only point is that the generation fighting this war is much more comfortable jumping between different types of music than it's predecessors.

UPDATE: Cori Dauber takes down the rest of the article with her usually destructive style.