Artists emerge from ruins of Mosul to reclaim Iraqi city's cultural life
Updated : November 01, 2018 06:51 AM IST
The first thing musician Fadhel al-Badri did when Mosul was liberated from Islamic State last year was breathe a sigh of relief.
The militants who seized the city in 2014 had targeted artists like himself so when neighbours said they were hunting for him, he left home, called his wife to say he was likely to die and took to sleeping in a different place each night.
The next thing he did was recover his beloved violin and his oud, similar to a lute, from where he had hidden them in the frame of his bed.
He said he hugged and kissed them "like they were my own children," and played amid the ruins "a song ... for Mosul."
On Saturday, Badri and other musicians and activists attended the first orchestral concert in the northern Iraqi city since the militants were defeated more than a year ago by Iraqi and Kurdish forces and a coalition led by the United States.
Thousands died in that battle or fled the city, large parts of which was reduced to rubble.
The musicians played in a park where the militants once trained child soldiers and the music, a mixture of Western and Iraqi classical, wafted along the banks of the Tigris River.
"Music is my life. It's amazing to hear it in Mosul again," he said. The concert was conceived by Karim Wasfi, former director of the Baghdad Orchestra, whose visiting Peace Through Arts Farabi Orchestra played alongside local musicians.
Mosul was long celebrated as a centre of Iraqi culture but that life was suppressed even before Islamic State declared its caliphate in 2014. Al Qaeda targeted musicians in the wake of a U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and no one could remember when they last heard live music in Mosul.