Karim Wasfi's Music Despite

In a humble gesture of reparations for the destruction and instability that has resulted from the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, I invite members of the public—especially those from countries that backed the invasion—to join me in supporting Iraqi musicians who play on, despite.

I am specifically raising funds for the transformative work of maestro Karim Wasfi, known for his impromptu cello performances at sites of bombings in Iraq. His Peace Through Art Foundation runs educational, empowering and healing music programs for youth and internally displaced refugees in Iraq. At the end of this campaign all contributions to this Go Fund Me will be transferred to maestro Wasfi, the director of Peace Through Art.

I was humbled to have Maestro Wasfi collaborate with me on my recent project Poetry Despite/Music Despite (Eternal War Requiem) hosted at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in February 2019 and on display until June 2019.  This Go Fund Me campaign is a key part of this project.

Please join me in supporting maestro Wasfi and the music of those who continue to play on, despite.

     —Aaron Hughes


Thank You for Your Contribution (Updated 12/11/2019)

The Poetry Poetry Despite/Music Despite (Eternal War Requiem) LP record was officially released 12/11/2019 and you can now purchase a record here: https://poetrydespite.online/

Starting December 11, 2019, the original thank you gifts are no longer available. Alternatively, the first 100 people who make contributions of $100 or more, will receive a copy of the Poetry Despite/Music Despite (Eternal War Requiem) LP record. 

PLEASE NOTE: To receive your special thank you gift, please leave your name and full shipping address in the comments section on the donation page (you may choose to make your information private—otherwise it will be made public on our Go Fund Me site). As Go Fund Me keeps all donor information confidential, if you do not leave your shipping information in the comments section there will be no way for us to send you your gift.

Poetry Despite/Music Despite (Eternal War Requiem)

This fundraising effort is part of Poetry Despite/Music Despite (Eternal War Requiem), an art project by Aaron Hughes, in collaboration with The Syrian Kings, Kevin Basl, Dunya Mikhail, Carlos Sirah and maestro Karim Wasfi.

Poetry Despite/Music Despite (Eternal War Requiem) connects artists across time and place, from World War I to the “Global War on Terror,” from the UK to Iraq. These connections acknowledge the recurring traumas of war and, conversely, the human connections that happen despite the pain.

The project emerged out of my personal reflections on Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem (originally written for the 1962 consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral), the nine poems by World War I poet Wilfred Owen featured in the War Requiem, and maestro Karim Wasfi’s “spontaneous compositions,” solo cello performances held at sites of recent bombings in Iraq. These works, along with my own memories of being a U.S. soldier in Iraq in 2003-2004, resonate with each other. They facilitate connections between our current state of endless war and its historical antecedents. Aptly, Wasfi has said of his cello performances: “I was connecting everything: death, spirits, bodies, life.” I was inspired to do something similar.

Building off these connections, Poetry Despite/Music Despite (Eternal War Requiem) is comprised of four core elements. The first includes nine large-scale woodblock prints that visualize the relationship between the horrors of World War I and the ongoing “Global War on Terror.” The prints respond to Owen’s nine poems in the War Requiem, while exploring current issues, including state-sanctioned extrajudicial killing, torture and detention, the refugee crisis, the rise of extremism, and the failure of states.

The second element of the project reimagines each of Owen’s War Requiem poems, placing this historic work into a contemporary context. These reimagined works of poetry and hip-hop were performed live at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, UK in February 2019. Each poetry performance was accompanied by a solo cello performance by maestro Wasfi and presented within the structure of the traditional Latin Mass for the Dead, the same structure Britten used for the War Requiem.

Working with sound artist Nate Sandburg, recordings from these live performances were then mixed, edited, and mastered into the third element of the project, the Poetry Despite/Music Despite (Eternal War Requiem) limited edition double vinyl record. This new composition includes an original sound design and samples from Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, performed at Coventry Cathedral on May 30, 1962 by the London Symphony Orchestra, Melos Ensemble, The Bach Choir and London Symphony Chorus, Highgate School Choir, Simon Preston on organ, and soloists Galina Vishnevskaya, Peter Pears, and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

The fourth and final element reflects on the music and poetry created by those most impacted by war. In a humble gesture of reparation for the destruction and instability that has resulted from the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, I donated my artist fee from the BALTIC Artists’ Award to maestro Wasfi. I invite members of the public—especially those from countries that supported the invasion of Iraq—to join me in supporting Iraqi musicians who play on, despite. 

—Aaron Hughes, 2019

Poetry Despite/Music Despite (Eternal War Requiem) was on display at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art from February through June 2019.

The Poetry Despite/Music Despite (Eternal War Requiem) record LP was released at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art on December 11, 2019. 

For more information visit poetrydespite.online 


Go Fund Me campaign cover from Karim Wasfi.


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Aaron Hughes 
Chicago, IL
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