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Brienz brings the sound of music back to Baghdad

These restored violins are waiting to be taken to Baghdad swissinfo.ch

Thanks to the skills of a Kyrgyz violin maker, the music school of Baghdad will soon be echoing with sounds other than explosions and gunfire.

This content was published on November 14, 2003 - 18:00

The school of violin making in the Swiss lakeside town of Brienz has given an apprentice the job of repairing violins for the Baghdad school.

The idea of donating instruments to the school came from a journalist working for Swiss German radio, shortly before he was killed in an accident.

The school was almost completely destroyed during the war in Iraq, and its instruments were stolen or vandalised.

The journalist’s initiative was taken up by the “Musique et Vie” (Music and Life) association, with help from the Jecklin chain of music shops.

“Many people in Baghdad have been touched by the fact that individuals here in Switzerland have donated their own instruments. They see it as a wonderful sign of solidarity,” says Peter Schuler, one of the leaders of “Musique et Vie”.

A score of instruments have already arrived in Baghdad, and a further 80 will be delivered as soon as the current security situation has become more stable.

Valuable

The next delivery will include valuable items for orchestral players, including pianos and harpsichords, as well as more basic instruments for the students, such as trumpets and flutes.

The task of restoring instruments intended for Baghdad has been taken on by the Brienz School of Violin Making.

The first violins have been repaired by a craftsman from Kyrgyzstan, who happens to be in Brienz because of a development aid programme which enables him to spend time in Switzerland.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is sponsoring an intensive six-month training course in Brienz for Turatbek Akunov.

Akunov, 39, was spotted by one of the teachers at the school, Simon Glaus, during a visit to Kyrgyzstan three years ago.

Glaus was struck by Akunov’s skill at wood carving, and the quality of the traditional Kirghiz instruments he was making for the conservatory in Bishkek, and invited him to come to Switzerland for training.

Akunov will be returning to his home in central Asia in February, but not before he has made a career possible for many an aspiring musician in Baghdad.

In his own country, instruments are also in short supply both because the money is not there to buy them and because, as in much of Asia and the former Soviet Union, there are few craftsmen capable of making and repairing them.

In the meantime, Akunov is also working on making his first violin. He has just three months to complete it – far less time than most of the students have at the Brienz school.

Our correspondent is in no doubt that he will succeed. And when he returns to Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek will have one more highly sought after craftsman.

But Akunov is not yet thinking about starting work again. “My third child is due in a few days, but I shan’t see him until the end of February.”

swissinfo, Raffaella Rossello (translation: Susan Worthington)

Key facts

The School of Violin Making in Brienz restores instruments for the music school in Baghdad.
Apart from violins the Brienz school repairs pianos, harpsichords, trumpets and flutes.
A craftsman from Kyrgyzstan, who is sponsored by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, carried out first repairs.
The idea came from a Swiss journalist shortly before he was killed in an accident.

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