BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraq's national symphony orchestra staged a rare concert in Baghdad in what organisers said was an effort to preserve the nation's cultural heritage despite years of warfare.
A repertoire of Arabic, Kurdish and classical Western compositions was played on Wednesday to an audience of 400 people including UN officials, diplomats, military officers and Iraqi lawmakers, according to the UN organisers.
The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq said the concert, held to mark the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, was intended to "remind the world of what Iraqis can offer and to preserve the country's cultural heritage.
British guest conductor Oliver Gilmour shared in leading the performance with the orchestra's own director, Iraq cellist Karim Wasfi.
"Without culture a country will literally pack up," Gilmour told UN Radio, underscoring the crucial role played by the arts.
He said that a concert such as this is a source of price and "engenders a feeling of quasi-normality."
Gilmour paid tributed to the orchestra, whose members represent different ethnic and religious groups.
"In many ways what they do is inspirational and it illustrates, I think, their indomitable spirit and the power of music," he said.