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A Taste of Assyria’ at the British Museum

Thursday 19th February, 2009

By: Ramsen Warda

The British Museum’s ancient Assyrian artefacts were brought alive by A Taste of Assyria on Thursday 19th February, 2009. The sold-out event, taking place in a lecture theatre on the lower level of the museum, breathed new life into the museum’s many Assyrian relics, which for so long have been appreciated by Assyrians and non-Assyrians alike. Organised by host Nineb Lamassu in collaboration with the British Museum.

Sawsan Lamassu

A Taste of Assyria brought together performers from across the world in celebration of Assyrian culture. Viewers were treated to an event celebrating both ancient and modern Assyrian custom, in both the Eastern and Western dialects of the Assyrian language.

Projected on the wall of the lecture theatre throughout the evening were images of the ancient Assyrian homeland, as well as Assyrian artefacts housed in the British Museum itself. Against this backdrop the night’s music was provided by a small orchestral ensemble, as well as a group of Assyrian instrumentalists. Joining them on stage for the entirety of the evening was the St. Ephrem Choir, from the Diocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church in the Netherlands. The Choir began the night’s proceedings with a haunting hymn performance, which set the tone for what was to prove a moving and unique night.

Following the Choir’s opening, Sweden’s Nagham Mousa performed a selection of songs, including ‘Shlama’ (Peace), which as Nineb Lamassu said is something many Assyrians are hoping for at the present time. Following Nagham Mousa was the renowned singer and musician George Homeh from Australia. Like Mousa, Homeh performed a selection of songs which enthralled the audience, and ended his set with a violin performance, accompanied by the Assyrian instrumental group.

The musical performances then briefly gave way to performing artist Shoshan Lamassu’s dramatic and heartfelt rendition of the king Gilgamesh’s search for immortality. Her performance saw her character mourning the death of her child, whose loss then triggered her search for Utnapishtim and the secrets of immortality. The final performance of the evening saw a return to music, and Sweden’s Habib Mousa performing a medley of songs. Mousa generated the biggest cheer of the night, and indeed summed up the mood of the event, with his declaration that ‘Assyria will never die’.

The only downside to the evening was the absence of musical director Elias Musaki, and an Assyrian dance group from Syria, who were both unable to obtain visas to attend the event. Nevertheless, A Taste of Assyria was a resounding success, both for its organiser Nineb Lamassu, whose enthusiasm shone through in his introductions and brief anecdotes throughout the night, and the British Museum. After the event one could feel the enthusiasm among the crowd that the event had generated. The audience had indeed tasted Assyria, and the British Museum’s Assyrian artefacts had been made to come alive once again.

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Views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect that of the or its staff .





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Eshwatt = February

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