The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Meet Zuhal Sultan, the founder of the Iraqi Youth Orchestra

October 17, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Wouldn’t it be nice for a change to hear good news from Iraq?

Usually we hear about sectarian violence, suicide bombings and widespread government corruption.

So for a change of pace, meet Zuhal Sultan (below), the woman who founded the Iraqi Youth Orchestra.

Zuhal Sultan

Her words remind us of what must have been in the mind of Marvin Rabin when he founded the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra, which is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Sultan’s words about the importance of music education and music performance have meaning not only to Iraq and other nations at war but also to us.

Not that she and the Iraqi Youth Orchestra (below) don’t continue to face major obstacles, especially from The Islamic State (or ISIS or ISIL) as they were preparing for a tour. (You can hear the orchestra during a festival in Scotland in a YouTube video at the bottom. Be sure to check out the comments by readers and listeners as wells by Zuhal Sultan.)

Iraqi Youth Orchestra 2

But NPR, or National Public Radio, has done a public service by offering us a fine interview with her, by showing harmony amid conflict.

Here is a link to the story done by the reporter and new host of “All Things ConsideredAri Shapiro. You can read the set up piece, but you a should also listen to the audio:

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2015/09/28/443214847/-we-need-to-be-human-zuhal-sultan-on-starting-the-iraqi-youth-orchestra


Classical music: Remember the Cellist of Sarajevo from 23 years ago? Now there is a Cellist of Baghdad. Read or hear all about him on NPR.

June 20, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

How music persists and endures in even the hardest and bloodiest and most unlikely of circumstances!

Perhaps you remember that during the Balkan wars, when Serbian snipers threatened daily life in Sarajevo, there was Vedran Smailovic (below), better known as the Cellist of Sarajevo, who defied the killers and resisted terror with beauty.

Sarajevo cellist Vedran Smailovic 1992

Now in the midst of the chaos created by religious conflict and the barbarism of ISIS comes The Baghdad Cellist. If you listen to the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear him playing — and it seems to be music, an excerpt from the solo suites for cello, by Johann Sebastian Bach, perhaps the most universal of composers.

And why the cello in both cases? Perhaps, The Ear thinks, because it so approximates the human voice and seems a perfect stand-in for a human being in such inhuman situations. What do you think?

Cellist of Baghdad 3 at home

Cellist of Baghdad

Read or hear about Karim Wasfi, the extraordinarily brave professional musician who performs at the sites of terrorist car bombings and who was recently featured on NPR or National Public Radio:

http://www.npr.org/2015/06/08/412284066/amid-violence-in-baghdad-a-musician-creates-a-one-man-vigil

 

 

 


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