Bataween: Preview of New Song on Oct 7 Album

A dear Iraqi Muslim friend of mine just returned to live in Baghdad. I asked if she would take photos of the home that my family lived in, before having to flee in 1950. She said she would be honored.

I called the last living relative in my father’s generation – my uncle in Israel – and asked if he remembered the address where he grew up. He told me that the neighborhood is Bataween. I asked what the street is. He said, “Bataween.” I said, yes that’s the neighborhood, but what’s the street? “Ba-ta-WEEN!” he replied. “OK so what is the number of the house?” I asked, moving on. “17/1/1.” “So that’s the number of the house. What’s the street name? “BA-TA-WEEEEN!” he replied.

It was equal parts frustrating, funny, confusing, and rhythmic. I called my friend, and in addition to getting a good laugh out of it, I got some education. She said nobody uses street names in Baghdad, but everyone knows everyone – where they live, who they are, what their personal business is. There’s apparently a magistrate for each neighborhood, so she’s going to the magistrate to ask if he knows where my family lived.

Meanwhile, in our conversation, she said a lot of things that were important to me, – like how you can’t erase 4,000 years of history, even if you try, and there are signs of the once-flourishing Jewish community everywhere in Baghdad, if you’re paying attention, and how it’s racist to call the Middle East “the Arab world” because it erases all the ethnicities.

I was disheartened to find out that the vibrant Jewish quarter had fallen into decay after all the Jews were forced out, and it became the hub of prostitution and alcohol, and weirdly, the place where Indian Sikhs congregate to pray.

I created this song that’s a combination of what my friend said in our conversation, what I felt, and what my uncle kept shouting into the phone. Below are the lyrics, and in the audio clip above, you can get a preview of the VERY rough scratch recording with my full band. 

You can help get this song, and this album, into the world, by becoming or upgrading as a KHAZZOOM patron, and by letting your friends know about my Patreon page. If you’re new as a KHAZZOOM patron, you’ll get a 7-day free trial – during and following which, you can cancel at any time.

You can’t erase
4,000 years of history
Even if you try
You just can’t do it


Signs of
The Jewish identity
Of this city
Are everywhere
Flirting with you repeatedly
If you’re paying attention


These decaying buildings
Home to an eclectic mix
Of prostitutes alcoholics and
Indian Sikhs praying

Were once the beautiful homes
Of my grandparents
And the vibrant Jewish community
What’s become of it all
Has left me vomiting


Sba’ata’ash wahdi wahdi
There’s no street apparently
So my uncle just keeps saying repeatedly


It’s not the Arab world
There are many ethnicities
It’s racist to call it that
And parenthetically
We were here
1300 years before you

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