Meet The Iraqi Cellist Who Plays At Baghdad Explosion Sites

Karim Wasfi, accomplished conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, has begun sharing music outside concert hall walls – these days, he plays at the sites of explosions in his hometown of Baghdad. He told NPR’s Morning Edition that he does this as a form of resistance:

“This was an action respecting the souls and the spirits of the fallen ones due to terror around the world — and, of course, Baghdad, because we’re living the reality over here. The other side chose to turn every element, every aspect of life in Iraq into a battle and into a war zone. I chose to turn every corner of Iraq into a spot for civility, beauty and compassion.”

He was inspired to begin playing his cello amid the violence when he dodged a violent attack in his neighborhood. In this video, he plays an original piece titled “Baghdad Mourning Melancholy” at the site of a car bomb explosion that took place just hours before. The footage of him playing is deeply moving even as an online viewer, but it was that much more powerful to Wasfi’s real-life audience.

“Some soldiers were in tears, some shop owners were in tears. Some people were confused. I was connecting everything: death, spirits, bodies, life. People were supportive. They were appreciating the fact that someone can still at least lead their emotions and spirits towards something beautiful, to rise above the intimidation of improvised death…Unlike what people think, we have a choice of fighting back. We can’t just surrender to the impending doom of uncertainty by not functioning. But I think it’s an awakening for everybody to make a choice and to choose how they want to live, not how they want to die.”

What a beautiful tribute to lives lost. [NPR]