Al Jazeera World

How the Iraqi symphony orchestra has survived wars and sanctions

The Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra’s fight for survival despite war, sectarian violence, sanctions, a lack of musicians and funds.

The Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra is one of the oldest orchestras in the Middle East.

Since the 1940s, it has survived wars, sectarian violence, international sanctions and political instability.

The orchestra performed classical and Arab music in the 1960s and 70s but the 1991 Gulf War forced many foreign musicians to leave. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, all its sheet music was looted and burned, and in 2018 musicians went without pay for months.

Still, it continues to promote Western classical music and aims to preserve Iraq’s own rich musical heritage.

In this film, the orchestra’s musicians, conductors and composers tell the story of its survival against the odds.