Welcome to Hiplomacy - From Iraq with Hip Hop
Brothers Haeder and Ali wake up every morning and go about their business as dancers, trainers, rappers and producers, much like other hip hop artists around the world. These brothers, however, wake up in Baghdad, one of the most hostile environments in the world for artists like themselves. There are few dance studios, few theaters who will welcome them and only the occasional television show that dares to feature their work. Despite the dangers, they are committed to hip hop and overcome every challenge to keep their art form alive in Iraq.
YES Academy Iraq, a program of the St. Louis-based nonprofit American Voices, has been the only organization to provide hip hop training in Iraq to artists like Haider and Ali. American Voices artist faculty have been intensively training young Iraqi dancers, rappers and MCs and this summer dance and rap participants in the YES Iraq program auditioned to take part in a New York based training and performance program. The final six — Haider and Ali included — were chosen to participate in the tour based on their talent and motivation.
The program, Hiplomacy: From Iraq With Hip Hop, was developed by American Voices Executive Director John Ferguson and is funded by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The program seeks to provide training, mentoring and performance opportunities to the next generation of young hip hop performers in the country. In addition, the program seeks to give American audiences a glimpse into a side of Iraq that is rarely seen: young dancers and rappers expressing their hopes and desires for a better world and a better Iraq through hip hop.
The YES Academy is a comprehensive performing arts program for young musicians ages six through young adult. The YES Academy has been held in Iraq every summer since 2007 and offers training opportunities to the emerging generation of musicians, actors and dancers in the nation. Every summer, more than 200 aspiring youth have been accepted into the program to work with a faculty of 12. Specific courses of study include piano, composition, conducting, violin, viola, cello, bass, string orchestra and chamber music. Student participants come from Baghdad, Mosul, Kirkuk, Basra and from throughout the Kurdistan Region.