The story of the Iraqi cellist who played on amid the rubble

After the car bomb ripped through his west Baghdad neighbourhood, Karim Wasfi set a stool among the wreckage and played his cello.

The strains of his song drew a curious crowd to the street earlier this week, just hours after the explosion had killed ten people.

Two other car bombs had struck the Iraqi capital on that Tuesday afternoon, claiming nine more lives, and leaving dozens of people injured.

“People were united against the tragedy. There was sincerity and kindness, tears and hugs,” said Mr Wasfi, describing the crowd that formed as he played. He calls the self-penned composition ‘Baghdad Mourning’.

Captured on film, Mr Wasfi’s impromptu concert has since been shared around the world. The former conductor of Iraq’s national symphony orchestra sits tall as he plays, stationed beside a burned out café he once visited to read musical scores.

The father of two says it felt like a natural gesture. “I wanted to show what beauty can be in the ugly face of car bombs, and to respect the souls of the fallen ones,” he said.

“I’m worried that people are losing hope and surrender to the situation,” said Mr Wasfi. After a decade dominated by waves of war, Iraq’s social fabric is being shredded by sectarianism. Governments, militants and street militia have repeatedly exploited the tensions to win support.

I play to show life is worth living – I can’t beat the bombs with my cello, but I can bring respect for the dead

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