Iraq: Five years after the struggle to drive Daesh out of Mosul, a four-day festival of traditional music has been held in the northern Iraqi city with the goal of reviving the region’s broken arts scene and fostering cultural cooperation.

The festival, which took place from March 24 to 27, was supported by UNESCO and featured musicians from Mosul and the surrounding province of Nineveh, as well as a number of international guests from Europe and beyond.

“Having a festival like this was a dream come true,” Khalid Alrawi, an oud player from Mosul, told Arab News. “I hope this type of event continues in the future.” We hope that it will grow into an annual festival with more activities.”

Organizers intended to portray the region’s genuine cultural vibrancy and diversity, unbowed by Daesh extremism, in addition to reviving the city’s once thriving music industry, which had been devastated by war and the flight of musicians abroad.

“A new music culture has arrived,” festival coordinator Harth Yasin told Arab News. “This event will welcome visitors and provide information about Mosul, as well as provide opportunity for our young outstanding musicians and artists.”

The festival featured seventeen performances representing the region’s diverse ethnic and religious makeup, including Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians, and others. Musicians from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Nepal also performed during the festival.

“We hope there will be more events like this in the future with more support in sites that symbolize Mosul’s culture and heritage,” Yasin said.

In June 2014, Daesh took control of Mosul and vast swaths of Nineveh, imposing a radical interpretation of Islam on the populace and suppressing cultural activities that did not conform to the group’s rigorous doctrine.

The government in Baghdad formally declared Mosul freed in July 2017, following nine months of fierce urban combat, stripping Daesh of its last major bastion in Iraq.

However, the city’s infrastructure and proud identity were severely damaged as a result of the victory. Since then, governments and relief agencies have financed programs to assist rehabilitate the historic old city and its surrounding regions’ valuable architecture.

As evacuated populations strive to save their houses and reestablish the local economy, recovery from this period of darkness will take many years. Color is slowly returning to daily life, due to festivals like this one.

“Mosul was cut off from the rest of the world. There was no one who knew about it. “Now they will know it better,” Talal Al-Shimali, president of the Nineveh section of the Musical Association, told Arab News.

“This is a historic occasion in Mosul.” It will help to boost Mosul’s music scene by encouraging musicians and artists to expand their horizons and engage with different cultures and music. It’s a terrific idea that will benefit the city and its residents. In Mosul, the festival represents all nationalities and minorities’ voices and music. My message to everyone in Mosul is to encourage music. Mosul is worn out and in desperate need of assistance. All international organizations are urged to support and assist Mosul. Over the previous few years, Mosul’s music has been dwindling day by day. With the support of foreign and local organizations in Mosul, we can yet preserve it.”

The festival was a watershed moment in Mosul’s recovery process for those striving to save the city’s artistic scene.
Basma Al-Hussiani, founder of the Iraqi Al-Amal Association, told Arab News, “Art is the substance of community, economic progress, and the backbone of society.”

“Art is at the heart of everything here. That is why I advise everyone who is striving to rebuild Mosul to include art as much as possible.”

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