This NBC article, “Baghdad symphony strikes a hopeful note: 73 musicians play on despite death threats,” is curious: it mentions death threats in the subheading but not in the article. Still, there are two main reasons why they probably have received threats: music is forbidden by Islamic law, and the music they are playing is Western. (Thanks to Skeetstreet for the link.)
BAGHDAD “” It was a gala classical concert with favorites by Beethoven and Schubert. But in Baghdad Friday night that meant blanket security “” dozens of undercover police blended into the invitation-only crowd of 300.
Just performing is a victory for the 73 members of the Baghdad Symphony Orchestra and it’s why Iraqi soloist Karim Wasfi chose the Dvorzak [sic] Cello Concerto.
“It has this will of survival,” says Wasfi. “It has this winning feeling in it. The music makes you feel a winner, somehow.”
The orchestra knows all about survival. The first in the Arab world, it struggled through two wars and economic sanctions under Saddam Hussein. The best talent fled Iraq. Musicians who stayed earned $1 a month and instruments fell into disrepair.
Still, the group, somehow, played on. And after Saddam’s fall, life “” and salaries “” improved. There were also gifts of new instruments and a trip to America “” all funded by the former U.S. authority in Iraq “” highlighted by a concert in Washington, D.C., attended by President Bush.
Life improved? What about those death threats?