Iraqi musicians meet Flemings who donated instruments


A group of musicians from a Mosul music school made famous in Flanders by VRT correspondent Rudy Vranckx paid a visit this week to people who donated instruments they are now playing

Imagine Mosul

A group of musicians from Iraq were in Flanders this week to meet people who donated instruments to their music school in Mosul last year. The school and all of its instruments had been destroyed by Islamic State.

Last summer during his reports on the liberation of Mosul, VRT foreign correspondent Rudi Vranckx discovered the ruins of the school. IS had not only destroyed the school, it further stole or destroyed all of the instruments. Music is in fact banned in Mosul.

The school had been home to a large number of musicians who had lost their livelihood when they lost their instruments. On his return to Flanders, Vranckx launched a campaign together with Radio 1 to ask the public to donate money and instruments.

120 instruments

The response was overwhelming, and he returned to the school in Mosul that September with 120 instruments. Canvas produced a documentary on the entire event called Imagine Mosul. Viewers learned that the music school’s director, Nabeel Atraqchi, had quickly buried two guitars to save them from IS. They are safe to this day.

“IS sees music as evil,” Atraqchi said. “Under them, music was banned, and you risked anywhere from 40 lashes to the death penalty. I took a huge risk burying the guitars in my garden. But it was that or die of despair.”

I took a huge risk burying the guitars in my garden. But it was that or die of despair

- Mosul music school director Nabeel Atraqchi

The programme also introduced several of the musicians who received the new instruments – everything from guitars to drums to violins. “When I met and got to know Nabeel, I became aware just how important music was to these people,” said Vranckx. “‘Imagine Mosul’ will help them to rebuild the school.”

This week, those musicians came to Flanders to meet some of the people who had donated instruments that they are now playing. A Flanders News’ video shows some poignant moments, such as when a woman meets the man playing her father’s violin. He had played it during the Second World War.

Vranckx later started Imagine Home, which saw donations made to refugees in Belgium who had to give up music lessons or leave their instruments behind when they fled their countries.

Photo: From the Canvas documentary Imagine Mosul