I arrived in Iraq in 2003 as part of the second wave into the country. Despite the war and my duties as a scout-sniper, I quickly became friends with many of the local Iraqis - including some famous musicians and artists there.
I had the great fortune to study music with an 'ud player there named Ali Hussein Jabir, who is still today a friend of mine, though our contact is sparse.
Just as great was to have the greatest Iraqi oud maker build his first oud in 10 years for me as a thank you. He was not sponsored as an artist by the Husseini government and was thus forbidden to work as an artist in Iraq and was exiled to Jordan until the war in 2003 when he finally returned home to Iraq.
After I had been studying with Ali, Hisham returned home to Baghdad from Jordan. Ali promised that he would find me the best oud, and once he ran into his old friend Hisham, he knew he had found it.
Hisham had already begun building his first oud, the one that would soon be mine. Even the wars could not keep the 3 of us away from music.
I wrote this piece called Missing Kut, in memory of my friends from the city of Kut, in Wasit, Iraq. It is performed on the oud Hisham built for me.