LAUNCHING UPBEAT: the Story of the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq

The past week has been hectic, with interviews from the Times, BBC World Service, Reuters, BBC Radio Ulster and Scotland, to name the ones I can even remember. UPBEAT: the Story of the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq, is catching fire across the whole nation, as well as overseas. 

Our official launch, on Saturday the 13th at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, engaged the audience in wonderful singing and harp playing from Tara Jaff. Tara, a living legend in the Kurdish community, brought not only deep connectedness to her tradition, but also her distinctive voice as singer-songwriter and insider to our discussions. 

In Erbil, 2010, she had played with us, and grown up in Baghdad in the 60s, before her family fled from Saddam to London. Bob McDevitt, Director of Glasgow’s Aye Write festival in Glasgow, moderated both of us to a full audience in the Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre. 

As my first appearance at a book festival, the warmth from our capacity audience overwhelmed both Tara and myself as I read out sections of the book and discussed the situation in Iraq with Bob and Tara - the perfect Book Festival event. 

Inevitably, in Q&A, people wanted to know about the orchestra’s current state of affairs. It’s in hiatus, and everyone is physically safe. However, for as long as Iraq remains this unstable, I don’t see the orchestra happening again any time soon. 

Our next book launch will be at Waterstones Picadilly on Thursday 25th August at 7 pm. I’ll be there to talk about UPBEAT, answer questions and sign copies. British-Iraqi singer, Alya Al-Sultani, and Oud player Max Shchedrovitski, will lift up our spirits with their music. 

by Paul MacAlindin

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