THE BLOG
11/08/2011 10:59 am ET | Updated Jan 08, 2012

Iraq and Roll Comes to a Town Near You

In my book, the coolest pop-rock in Arabia will always be UTN1. UTN1, or Unknown to No One, is an Iraqi band that started in 1999 in Baghdad, Iraq. Their relatively early beginnings make them one of the pioneering groups of the Arab indie rock genre. UTNI has an interesting history, being one of the few bands that sing in both Arabic and English, and have been known to push musical boundaries in Iraq, which is interesting, since they formed under Saddam Hussein's regime. The founding members are Shant Garabedian and Artin Haroutiounian who are of Iraqi-Armenian descent. They were later joined by Hassan Ali Al-Falluji , and Akhlad Raof.

Ever since the Arab Spring started, there has been a surge in the popularity of their genre. Arab countries like Egypt have so many new bands now, which has enriched the field and developed a new audience tired of being spoon-fed the same old karaoke pop. Lebanon and Jordan are going through similar musical upheavals, too. While many of those bands focus on political and social matters, UTN1 offers an indie rock response to breakups and new-found love.

Now, are you ready for some Iraqi rock? Ready for some music that can really heal your soul? The band that can do just that is back! UTN1 has just released their much anticipated music video. They went all the way to the other side of the Atlantic to bring us Baddy Oul. The band is no stranger to the United States, as their latest music video directed by Ruby Malek was shot in New York City -- the city where indie music meets pop. The video features a lot of crisp and lively images of the Big Apple without detracting focus from the music and the band. UTNI managed to create a true indie feel with this music video, further defining the band's identity while bringing in new fans. they use the Lebanese dialect, which sounds natural to Iraqi ears, while attracting a budding and wealthy Lebanese market.

The unique thing about UTN1 is that most of their songs are written and composed by the band themselves. They have worked to broaden their appeal across the entire Middle East. One of the songs in the Arabic part of their album is sung using the Egyptian dialect while another one uses the Lebanese dialect. The album was a big success in Lebanon and other countries like Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco. Such successes earned them an appearance on the all-too-popular Star Academy (The Arab version of American Idol) where they performed "Jamila" ( جميلة Beautiful ) with a contestant.

As you can tell, the band members bring it with their swagger and near perfect vocals, creating a rich feast for both the eye and the ear. I love the drum and guitar bit in most of their songs. That's what defines UTN1 -- It's not just a bunch of singers, as is the case with most Arab pop stars -- they are actual musicians, too. UTN1 is a garage band and is the Arabic incarnation of all the things I like about American pop-rock. Even though UTN1 formed in the old Iraq, they have come to give a voice to a whole new generation of Iraqis and Arabs.

The band is between production companies now and thus using their time touring in the United States. Their last performance of their U.S. tour was in Phoenix, Arizona, they are set to perform next in McLean Virginia (for tickets). This even will bring together Iraqis and other Arabs and Americans looking for something familiar yet very different.