Iraqi National Symphony conductor plays at site of bombing

Posted on: May 1, 2015

“When a car packed with explosives detonated in the busy Mansour district [of Baghdad] this week, killing at least 10 people and injuring 27, something very unusual happened. Karim Wasfi, the renowned conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, turned up as soldiers and police secured the area,” writes Barry Malone on Wednesday (4/29) at Al Jazeera America. “He took out his cello, sat down on a chair, and started to play.… Wasfi spoke to Al Jazeera (excerpted): ‘It was an action to … reach the equilibrium between ugliness, insanity and grotesque, indecent acts of terror—to equalise it, or to overcome it, by acts of beauty, creativity and refinement…. When things are insane and abnormal like that, I have the obligation of inspiring people… They loved it. Soldiers cried. They kissed, they clapped, they felt alive, they felt human and they felt appreciated and respected, which does not surprise me…. At this stage, [arts and culture are] needed as much as food, as much as oxygen, as much as water. I do understand the reality behind the argument of basic services and basic needs. I think this is as basic as electricity and water.”

Posted May 1, 2015

Pictured: Video of Karim Wasfi playing his cello at a Baghdad blast site has gone viral. Photo by Karim Wasfi / Al Jazeera