Raving in Kurdistan | March 2019

DJ and concert chief Aland closes out the night with his fellow artists on stage.

Late March 2019: Sulaymaniyah, northern Iraq (Kurdistan)

I had a bit of a difficult start in Iraq. A couple of weeks into my moving there this past March, I was in a car accident, while on a trip for work.

To this day, neither I nor the colleague driving know what happened. One second we were cruising down a mostly empty, flat stretch of highway, and the next, we were careening through the field next to the highway, windshield cracked, airbags deployed, the front of the car smashed. Miraculously, neither of us were hurt beyond cuts and bruises. I did get whiplash and bang my ribs up though (passenger airbag hit me full in the sternum), and for the next 5 or 6 weeks, inevitable things like lying down, breathing, and especially sitting, hurt like a motherf**ker.

Crowd-surfing at the rave

A month after this happened, there was a rave in Suli, the city where I live.

I know, you’re thinking “WTH does a rave have to do with anything?”

Turns out, the one thing that was actually reasonably comfortable to do with bruised ribs, was to be on my feet, the only way to ease the compression on said ribs. Standing, walking, kind-of-dancing… as long as my torso and shoulders were straight, I could breathe without feeling too sorry for myself.

This rave, which was really a concert, was the first that local arts collective X-Line Project had organized. There were DJs and other music artists from all over: Germany, Turkey, Iran, and of course, right here in Sulaymaniyah.

It was a fantastic event. A proper rave with some of the most engaged and active DJs I’d ever seen, and really great music.

And it was good to dance. Inasmuch as swaying and wincing to the beat can be called dancing. But I didn’t care. In the dark warehouse where leaking rain lent a surreal fleshiness to coloured strobe lights, I and hundreds of other people (most of them half my age) let our bodies respond to the music and momentarily, gender, age, sexual orientation, appearance mattered less than the driving rhythms that the DJs were throwing out at us.

A leaky roof on a stormy night didn’t stop music fans from enjoying their favourite DJs performing.

I was sore as all hell the next morning, but it was a different soreness from the self-imposed restriction of movement since the accident. It was good to move again. It good to feel mobile again.

It was healing.

It was also good to experience the city beyond the dominion of work and practical necessity. My first months in Iraq have been pretty bumpy, but there’s nothing like music to remind one that there’s hope for this idiot after all.

And no, I didn’t expect there to be raves in Kurdistan either!