Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra

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The Iraqi National Orchestra, officially founded in 1959, performing a concert in Iraq in July 2007.

The Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra (INSO) (Arabic,فرقة الأوركسترا السمفونية القومية العراقية) is a government funded symphony orchestra in Baghdad. The INSO plays primarily classical European music, as well as original compositions based on Iraqi and Arab instruments and music.


The orchestra began as the Baghdad Symphony Orchestra in 1944 by Albert Chaffoo. 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.


Representative of the diversity of Iraq, its 90+ musicians now include Shi'a, Sunni, Kurds, Armenians, Assyrian Christians, and Turkomen, 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]


External links[edit]