Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra

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The Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra began as the Baghdad Symphony Orchestra in 1944. It performed for approximately two years and was disbanded after Albert Chaffoo left Iraq and returned to London to continue his musical career. Many members of the former Baghdad Symphony later formed the future Iraqi National Symphony[1][2][3] The orchestra became officially known as the Iraqi National Symphony in 1959 when it began to receive a salary from the government. The INSO was abolished by the Iraqi Minister of Culture in 1962 and rehearsed underground until 1970, when it was re-established.

Over the next ten years, the Orchestra toured France, Spain, Algeria, Lebanon and Jordan,[4] and hosted guest musicians and conductors from many countries. But during the 1980s and 1990s many musicians, plagued by financial hardship, left the country to pursue opportunities elsewhere. Although its home theater was burned by looters during the April 2003 invasion of Baghdad, the orchestra performed a concert in Baghdad in June 2003 and subsequently traveled through northern Iraq, recruiting new members.[5]

In December 2003, the orchestra performed a joint concert with the U.S. National Symphony Orchestra and Yo-Yo Ma at the Kennedy Center in Washington, co-sponsored by the U.S. State Department. President George W. Bush and First lady Laura Bush attended the concert, and Colin Powell introduced the orchestra.[6]

The INSO is currently managed and conducted by Karim Wasfi.


French horn players at a concert of the orchestra in 2007

Representative of the diversity of Iraq, its 90+ musicians now include Shi'a, Sunni, Kurds, Turkoman, Armenians and Christians, as well as six women, one of whom is the first American woman to join in the history of the orchestra.[7] Due to rising sectarian divisions in Iraq some musicians sit away from each other at rehearsals.[8]

Famous attendees[edit]


  1. ^ La Jolla Light Newspaper,April 22, 2010.
  2. ^ cite web
  3. ^ "INSO Monthly Newsletter, November, 2001". Archived from the original on 2018-06-21. Retrieved 2006-10-02.
  4. ^ "The Sweet Sound of Propaganda". The Independent. 2003-12-12. Archived from the original on 2006-09-28. Retrieved 2006-10-05.
  5. ^ Archived 2016-01-26 at the Wayback Machine Strings Magazine
  6. ^ Colin Powell (2003-12-09). "Remarks at Performance of Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra".
  7. ^ Phyllis McIntosh. "President Bush, Secretary Powell welcome Iraqi musicians to Kennedy Center". Coalition Provisional Authority. Archived from the original on October 24, 2008. Retrieved 2009-10-04.
  8. ^ "Iraq's orchestra: The melody of life and death". The Economist. 16 May 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2015.

External links[edit]