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Yo-Yo Ma’s Moving Piece in Honor of the Halabja Massacre

The Silk Road Ensemble is a collaboration, under the guidance of cellist Yo-Yo Ma, between virtuoso musicians and composers from more than twenty countries. Through original compositions and performances, the Ensemble pursues a modern synthesis of musical traditions from the east and west.

Among their latest works is the haunting and beautiful “Silent City.” Composed by Iranian musician Kayhan Kalhor, the improvisatory piece is Kalhor’s response to a terrible massacre that occurred near the border of Iran and Iraq some 24 years ago. “I had it in front of my eyes wherever I went for a couple of months,” he says. “It wasn’t easy to forget, and I always wanted to do something to remember that.”

Kalhor is speaking of the Kurdish town of Halajba, targeted by Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons on March 16, 1988. Several thousand Kurdish civilians were killed in the attack. The Silk Road Ensemble debuted “Silent City” at Harvard’s Sanders Theater in March of this year.