West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra was conceived in 1999 inspired by the Argentinean-Israeli musician Daniel Barenboim and the late Palestinian professor Edward Said. It started as a music workshop where young musicians from Israel and the Arab countries of the Middle East could develop their musical skills in an environment of coexistence and cultural enrichment. Today, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra has become an international model on the defense of values such as peace and tolerance through the universal language of music.

The first editions of the West-Eastern Divan workshop took place in Weimar (1999) and Chicago (2000 and 2001). In 2002, the Orchestra found a home in Seville, thanks to the support of the Regional Government of Andalusia. Since then, Spanish musicians are part of the project, which has already performed in over 25 countries, including in all the Andalusian cities.

During the music workshops, the young Arab, Israeli and Spanish musicians participate in intensive work programmes, developing their music skills and sharing scores, dining halls and, above all, their passion for music. The orchestra’s performances in some of the main international venues show the hard work behind each rehearsal.

The West-Eastern Divan is not only a musical project, but also a forum for dialogue and reflection on the Arab-Israeli problem. The cross-cultural contacts made by the musicians during the orchestral workshops, symbolize how political and cultural differences could be overcome between the countries represented in the orchestra.

Unfortunately, music alone will not solve the highly complex conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. However, in the Barenboim-Said Foundation we strongly believe that music is a powerful tool for breaking down barriers previously considered insurmountable. This project thus demonstrates that an understanding between countries which have historically been enemies is possible.

“We aspire to total freedom and equality between Israelis and Palestinians, and it is on this basis that we come together to play music.” Statement of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra musicians, 2009.

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