The National Iraqi Youth Orchestra is set to showcase its talents a crowd in London on Tuesday night, following their performances over the past week in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
“The mission of this group is to show the real face of Iraq -- not which is shown by others,” Dr. Abdulrahman Dheyab, Director of the Iraqi Culture Center in the U.K. said.
“They want to tell the world that music can bring us all together and that ‘soft’ powers could play an essential role to build bridges among nations.”
The concert, part of the orchestra’s U.K. debut, also features a solo performance by Khyam Allami playing the Oud, the traditional Arab musical instrument that originated in Iraq.
The group is comprised of predominantly self-taught musicians from various backgrounds and various parts of Iraq. Some are Arabs, some are Kurds, some are Muslim and some are Christian -- a diversity that garners attention as a group seeking harmony through classical music.
“They have done an amazing show, I find it very inspiring,” Dr. Dheyab said. “And it shows that the music has deep roots in Iraq culture -- so those young Iraqi musicians reflect that in their performances.”
In its fourth year running, the idea of the orchestra dubbed the bravest in the world was founded by pianist Zuhal Sultan when she was 17, and has been backed by the British Council. Its first concert was in 2009, in the Iraqi Kurdish city of al-Suleiymaniah.
Every year, auditions are held via video submissions on social media platforms such as YouTube. Once selected, the orchestra’s members attend summer sessions conducted by Scottish conductor and musical director, Paul MacAlindin. They then go on to perform.
This year, the group was hosted by the Scottish government for three weeks, coinciding with the Einburgh Fringe Festival, and may tour Europe some more.
“They will go back to Iraq to do more training,” Dr. Dheyab said of the orchestra's plans after its U.K. shows. “They might have another performance in Paris,” he added.
One thing is certain: this young troupe of diverse Iraqi musicians are determined to continue spreading their message of peace through music.