Thursday, May 21, 2015

Music as a global initiative against insanity: Karim Wasfi and Vedran Smailovic

Yesterday a friend on Facebook brought my attention to a cellist in Baghdad. On April 28, 2015, an hour after a car bomb killed 10 people and injured 27 others,  Karim Wasfi, conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, took his cello to the spot and began to play. Soldiers and other Baghdadians  joined him to listen, to cry and clap at "the act of civility".  Video clips of his music, quickly went viral.

Karim Wasfi

In an interview with Al-Jazeera he said, 
"It was an action to try to equalise things, to reach the equilibrium between ugliness, insanity and grotesque, indecent acts of terror - to equalise it, or to overcome it, by acts of beauty, creativity and refinement.". 
When he was asked whether he sees the violence as insanity, he replied, "At the moment, yes. Because, especially in this part of the world, people have the resources, the manpower, the assets, the time, the geography, the atmosphere, the weather, the sun, vitamin D, you name it. They have every reason to live in peace."

This cellist brought me to remember another one who played in the rubble in Sarajevo, Bosnia. I met his then-wife in March 1994 when I traveled to Split, Croatia with German Mennonite Peace Comittee (DMFK). Our group was mandated to live for 3 weeks near a small displaced persons camp to play with the children. When we visited Ines  and her two small children there was a huge poster hanging on the wall of Vedran Smailovic playing his cello. His venue was the spot where a bread line had been targeted and 22 people killed. He continued the music for 22 days and then many days afterward in other areas of the city. It is reported that he was told that he was crazy to sit in view of snipers just to play music. His life was in danger. Vedran replied, "You ask me am I crazy for playing a cello, why do you not ask if they are crazy for shelling Sarajevo?".

Today I led the worship/gathering time for my CPT team in Iraqi Kurdistan. I brought these two men to our attention and then played a  song that has been written about Vedran
Smailovic by folk singer John McCutcheon  called "The Streets of Sarajevo". We remembered that time of war but were also aware that the conflict now has an end date attached to it. We pray that someday soon the vicious conflict here in this region will have an end date too. 

"The Streets of Sarajevo" -- John McCutcheon