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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 July 2018

Cellist brings sounds of peace to former ISIS capital

Karim Wasfi's performance amid ruins of Mosul is a call for peace and reconstruction

Famed Iraqi maestro and cello player Karim Wasfi performs in front of the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Hour in Mosul’s war-ravaged Old City on June 29, 2018. Zaid Al Obeidi / AFP
Famed Iraqi maestro and cello player Karim Wasfi performs in front of the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Hour in Mosul’s war-ravaged Old City on June 29, 2018. Zaid Al Obeidi / AFP

Iraqi cellist and conductor Karim Wasfi has played a concert for "peace and co-existence" amid the ruins of Mosul, almost a year after Iraqi forces ousted the extremist group ISIS from the capital of its self-declared "caliphate".

Dozens of people attended on Friday as Wasfi, in full concert dress, played on a makeshift stage among the most famous religious monuments of Iraq's second city.

The venue lay between the Catholic church of Our Lady of the Hour with its famed clock tower and the remains of the Hadba leaning minaret next to the Al Nuri Mosque, destroyed during the battle for the city.

Wasfi was joined by the violinist, guitar and oud players of local band Awtar Nerkal.

"This music is a message from Mosul to the whole world, of the concepts of security, peace and coexistence," said Wasfi.

The dual Iraqi-US national is former conductor of Iraq's National Symphony Orchestra and has been nicknamed "Iraq's Rostropovich" after the Russian maestro cellist.

The music was "a call for companies, investors and organisations to come and take part in the reconstruction of the city, especially its destroyed Old Town", the bearded and bespectacled artist said.

The impromptu concert came in the same week that Iraqi authorities finally launched clean-up operations in the city that the extremist militants held for three years until July 2017.

Several times over the past three years, Wasfi, who was born in Cairo, has taken his cello on to the streets of Baghdad to play at bomb sites shortly after attacks.

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