September 22, 2014

First Afghan Youth Orchestra to perform in United States

By Mirwais Adeel - Thu Jan 31 2013, 2:26 pm

Afghanistan National Institute of MusicA group of musicians who are members of Afghanistan’s first youth orchestra are preparing to give a concert in the United States.

The Afghan National Institute of Music (ANIM) will travel to three cities in the United States from February 3-15 for performances and cultural exchange with American youth orchestras, according to US Department of State.

The Afghan students and their teachers also will play concerts featuring both Western and traditional instruments at the Kennedy Center on February 7, Carnegie Hall on February 12, and the New England Conservatory February 13-15. The group’s tour will be further enriched by collaborations with the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras and the Scarsdale High School Orchestra.

Afghanistan is not known for its performing art scene — most likely because Taliban banned all music when they took power in 1996. The regime ordered the burning of musical instruments along with cassette players and thousands of tapes, while musicians were faced with 40 days imprisonment if caught making music. As the Guardian commented in 2001, “their impact has been catastrophic across all sections of Afghanistan artistic and cultural life.”

Ahmad Sarmsat, an Afghan musician who trained in Russia and Australia, was determined to reawaken the musical talents of his people once the Taliban regime fell. In 2009 he opened a school, the National Institute of Music, and now with the help of American director William Harvey, he’s working to send the school’s youth orchestra to the United States.

The Afghan National Institute of Music reflects a modern Afghanistan, in which the musical traditions of East and West come together in the hands of gifted teachers and students. The young men and women who study at the Afghan National Institute of Music study a variety of instruments, including the tabla, the rubab and the violin.

They study the music of Afghan composers and international composers from Ustad Mohammed Umar to Duke Ellington.

Many of the teachers at the Institute are private American citizens who have chosen to live in Kabul in order to bring the gift of music to these young children.

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