Bakuri… A Memorial Ceremony for an Icon of Fraternal Coexistence

On the evening of Tuesday 13 December 2022, the General Directorate of Syriac Culture and Arts in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region held a memorial ceremony on the occasion of the forty-day death anniversary of the late great Syriac artist Bakuri, in cooperation with the General Directorate of Culture and Arts in Erbil. It was held at the Cultural Hall in Erbil, in the presence of Peshtwan Sadiq, Minister of Endowments and Religious Affairs, Aidan Maarouf, Minister of Component Affairs, and Dr. Salar Othman, Deputy Minister of Culture and Youth. A number of government and administrative officials, the family of the deceased, a group of artists and fans of the art of the late Bakuri, his friends and colleagues were also in attendance.

The ceremony began with standing for the Kurdish anthem. Then, candles dedicated to the spirit of the deceased were lit. After that, Kaldo Ramzi Oghanna, Director General of Syriac Culture and Arts, gave a speech to the organizers, in which he praised the Iraqi Kurdistan Region as an oasis of love and fraternal coexistence, to which the father of the deceased came, escaping Ottoman oppression and the genocidal campaigns that affected our people after the First World War. It was also where the child Andraos was born and raised loving religious hymns. He was attracted and enchanted by their atmosphere and sounds, and was a lover of Mam Siwa’s voice, whether in singing Kurdish maqams or Church hymns. He added that: “No field of creativity may be devoid of extensive, influential and prominent contributions by our Syriac innovators. If we touch on the field of musical creativity, we will find many who contributed to the development of music and singing in Iraqi Kurdistan, including famous music teacher William Youkhana, Mam Siwa and Bakuri, who presented a wide range of melodies. This has enriched and developed the archive of Kurdish music, as it is not surprising that any Syriac would offer his services and creativity to his brothers in the homeland, in a wonderful reflection of the spirit of love and fraternal coexistence that brings us all together in Kurdistan. This is a case of flow; their giving is unlimited, not confined to their component only. Rather, it overflows and includes other coexisting components.” He concluded by saying: “Bakuri will remain an example and icon of brotherly coexistence and love between all the components of Kurdistan, and his message will remain alive, continuous and effective through his students, fans of his art, and through all of us.”

This was followed by the speech of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government’s Ministry of Culture and Youth delivered by its undersecretary Dr. Salar Othman. In it, he emphasized that Kurdistan is the homeland of creative people. It is an oasis of peaceful coexistence that welcomed Andraos’ displaced family, and in which that son of an immigrant arose to become an artistic icon, a symbol of Kurdistan and a standard bearer for it. This was because he respected the other, he was different, and doors were opened for him to be creative and distinguished. Thus, he was respected and appreciated by leaders and presidents, referring in this context to the meeting of the deceased with President Barzani, who congratulated the late artist on the occasion of Christian religious holidays, since he had great respect and appreciation for him.

Afterward, a short film detailing the life, achievements and creativity of the late Bakuri, produced by the Ministry of Culture and Youth, was shown.

During the ceremony, an honorary shield was presented in the Ministry’s name to the deceased’s family.  Other honorary shields and bouquets of flowers were presented by Salar Othman to a number of artistic pioneers in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and to the Bawaji Ensemble, in the name of several official bodies.

Dr. Saba Bakuri, the son of the deceased, gave a speech on behalf of the family, in which he thanked the regional government, its people and all his late father’s fans. He also expressed the family’s thanks and appreciation to all those who contributed to organizing this ceremony and everyone who cares about the heritage and musical archive of the great artist Bakuri, as well as preserving it.

The Bawaji Ensemble, the foundation of which the late Bakuri had laid the first nucleus for, also presented musical and lyrical segments composed by the great musician, with the participation of a number of Kurdish singers, admirers of the deceased’s art, colleagues and students. The Syriac artist Youssef Aziz also participated with them.

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