Sunday, February 10, 2008

Last night's epiphany

I realized that although I may seem like I'm comfortable in the fact that my music taste is so varied, I still however, on a much deeper level, feel a sense of isolation from the rest of the world because I enjoy Assyrian music so much.

It hit me that, Assyrian music is a product of the world, it is a part of it. There is no shame in the fact that hearing it makes my personality change and my very heart sing.

I didn't even know how to speak Assyrian most of my life. I knew a couple of words here and there but that was it, all my thoughts were in English. I still carry with me an Anglo mind on top of an Assyrian heart.

Then for some reason, when I was seventeen years old, I found our old cassette tapes. I listened to them over and over again. I remembered the short time we spent in Illinois when I was five years old. For the first time in my life I felt a deeply painful and nostalgic sorrow.

I grew up in Los Angeles where the Assyrian community isn't as tightly-knit as those of Illinois and central California or the communities of Canada and Australia. I lived in Glendale for 19 years, which as you all know is a huge Armenian community. I was a smaller minority among a larger one.

Before Glendale and before Chicago, my family lived in Kuwait where my brothers and I were born. In Kuwait my family had more Kuwaiti, Indian, and American friends than Assyrian ones. In retrospect, I see that there must have been some cosmic purpose in my being taken to Chicago among Assyrians for a very short period of time. I spent only a year and a half among Assyrians my entire life.

In Glendale I was invisible. Although I had a lot of great, Armenian friends it was still awkward. A lot of Armenians accused me of lying about being Armenian. It's like they'd rather believe I was an Armenian traitor as opposed to the bigger sin of not being Armenian.

So, at 17 my obsession with Assyrian music began and it slowly built up to what it is today. Now I can't go a day without hearing an Assyrian song. It's usually in the car and I sing along so loudly and I even dance a little.

Because of Assyrian music I realized who I am, I learned to speak Assyrian wonderfully, and I've even learned to read and write it.

All Assyrian songs are beautiful to me, and they're all so different.

The painful nostalgia will always be there when I hear an old song, even in my eighties. Always there, reminding my nomadic, isolated heart of a time and place long ago where I wasn't the only one enjoying this beautiful music, everyone else around me was too.


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