Kazem Nasser, the heritage oriental music's musician
Iraqi musician Kazem Nasser started early playing oud instrument, he studied music at the Institute of Music Studies. For heritage preservation, he specialized in heritage songs and authentic oriental music. He worked hard to showcase this type of art. But despite all the sacrifices he made in order to his love for music and towards art being his weapon to confront injustice. However, between the political obstacles at the beginning and cultural obstacles at the end, that dream did not live properly. In a special interview with the Mosaik newspaper, the musician Kazem Nasser tells us about his artistic journey.
How and when started your artistic journey?
– I started playing oud at the age of 13, but my interest in music started from an early age. I studied for six years at the Institute of Musical Studies, which was specialized in Iraqi heritage. I got first place in the department of oud and I wanted to pursue postgraduate studies in this aspect, but the conditions were not right.
What are the obstacles that faced your success as a musician in Iraq?
– Politics always spoils everything and affects all sides of life. There was a compulsory law in Iraq providing for service in the army after studies termination. That was like straw that broke the camel's back. First, I had a position against the regime, and secondly, I am an artist and the artist never uses a weapon, if it must be there a weapon, my weapon is my art. I still remember how my mom was affected when she heard war songs after we lost my brother in the war. I felt they were dancing on our wounds. So, it shocked me. I promised myself that I would not use a weapon or go to war and that my weapon be my art and my war would be against those who dance on our wounds to achieve their interests. Because the real artist is the one who expresses the real suffering of the people. However, this greatly affected my life, because who refrained from the service in the army, endanger his life.
How did you manage to save your life?
– The fugitive from the military service his future was completely end, one could not find job or continue studying, and one could not practice his normal life. Even relatives could not receive him in their homes because that would expose them to the legal issue. So, I had to save my life. In fact, Egyptian cinema's films helped me a lot in that, as I used all the tricks that were used in the cinema's films to save my life. So, I could not work in the musical field. I worked in the field of mechanic and carpentry. Then I moved to work in commerce. I succeeded in doing business. But after a while, I felt that I was a long way from the field I love and that working in commerce did not serve my aspiration as a musician. I realized that I had achieved nothing but spent all that time just saving my life. So, I decided to travel, but it wasn't easy. I did not have a passport. With the help of some musicians friends who were dispatched outside the country to perform a national concert, I got the passport. I went to Jordan and applied for asylum. I started work with music, performed concerts, and lived my artistic life. After that I left Jordan and headed to Sweden.
How was your start in Sweden?
– I came to Sweden in 2002. After I finished my language studies I worked as a music teacher at the Music Institute of Vimmerby municipality and then I moved to Växjö and worked at the cultural school. But there was no big interested in playing oud. So, I changed my career and worked in furniture factories. Recently I created a company to transport patients, "Serviceresor", and I work successfully. But I still feel that I have been very far from the musical field. I try to live this passion by making oud in my own lab, and I also have a studio that I record some songs from time to time.
As an artist, who faced the challenge in projecting your artistic talent, in your opinion, what is the reason that prevents people born outside Sweden from continuing and succeeding in the musical field?
– When it comes to oriental art, there is a gap between the artist and the recipient. Therefore, it may be difficult for Eastern art providers to continue in Sweden, for several reasons, including cultural, economic and social. That is why we find many artists have changed their field. There is an interest by the community in cultural diversity but there is no interaction. For example, if the type of music you offer is oriental, there is great difficulty in marketing this type of music in Europe in general and Sweden in particular. Because it is difficult to accept this type of music. Even children of Arab communities who grew up in Sweden find it difficult to accept oriental music. I worked as a teacher of oriental music, but this was ineffective in government schools. But it can work as a private business. In addition to the economic side, it is very difficult to count on musical work as a source of income. In our countries we can rely on the musical field economically because we can market it. Just as the city you live in also plays a role in that, big cities are not like small cities. As for my personal experience, music for me is a message and I am an academic musician and I offer ancient music of heritage that depends mainly on the word, so it made it more difficult to market this kind of music in Sweden. I do not want to give up this type of art and offer another type that does not conform to my artistic principles. So, I preserve the heritage through my music because the heritage is an identity. If I do not preserve heritage and civilization, I cannot add anything to the present.
Since you came to Sweden, what is your contribution in the musical aspect?
– I worked as a music teacher as I mentioned earlier. In addition, I worked in the Maqamat musical band. It was composed of members residing in various European countries. We were meeting at the airport when we were going to concerts, whether in Sweden or outside Sweden. The band lasted for ten years. But the biggest challenge facing the band was the economic aspect. Since it was not permanent work, we only performed concerts from time to time. Consequently, we had to leave the band and get involved in working life.
What is your advice to people who have come to Sweden and are looking to work in the musical field?
– The first thing is learning Swedish language, and second, to integrate into Swedish society. If the artist wants to continue in music work, one prefers to remain free and not linked to any other responsibilities that exclude him or her from the artistic field. For marketing that depends on the type of art you offer, it must be one that Swedish society accepts. For example, if the type of music is oriental, it is preferable that this music not only be devoted to Arab communities, but it is better to interact with Swedish society.