Inside Move: Iraq group hopes to rock ‘n’ roll

Saddam songsters eye Western breakthrough

The first English-singing Iraqi boyband — optimistically named Unknown to No One — hopes to become the Backstreet Boys of Baghdad after attracting the interest of Brit-based talent scout and pop consultant Peter Whitehead.

The five-strong outfit was formed in 1999 after answering an ad on Uday Hussein‘s “Voice of Youth FM.”

Under the Hussein regime, the budding popstars were forced to belt out pro-regime ballads, including a birthday homage to the Maximum Leader, but since the fall of Baghdad, Unknown have returned to their first love — puppy love songs.

Although only 2000 copies of their album “From Now On” hit the streets, one found its way to Whitehead through the online registry www.bandreg.com, which he runs. Whitehead was so struck by the track “Hey Girl” that he invited the band to London to rework the song in a fully equipped studio with vocal producer Ian Mack.

The multi-ethnic mix of the band — comprised of two Armenian Christians, two Shiite Arabs and a Sunni Muslim Kurd — reflects what many hope will be the future of a democratic Iraq.

But roadblocks remain: Since the fall of Saddam, fundamentalist Muslims have targeted Unknown as Western lackies.