In 2008, 17-year-old Zuhal Sultan initiated the creation of the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq in spite of the Iraqi war and language barriers. The NYOI now gathers Kurdish, Arabic and English speakers, most of whom only speak their own language.
While the orchestra uses interpreters, there are still times when the members need to communicate directly. Since words only account for 5% of communication, the young musicians have honed other skills to understand their peers, observing their body language, paying careful attention to voices and pitches and of course listening acutely to each other’s instruments. Training relies heavily on the students learning the core music vocabulary, then getting by through gestures, pointing and singing.
Many Kurds and Arabs within the group are now learning Arabic and Kurdish respectively as a result, when they had hardly any experience of each other before.
The success of the NYOI in bringing young talents together against all odds proves that sometimes all you need is a willingness to communicate.