The Happiest Place in Kabul

A young girl who was selling gum on the streets of Kabul to survive is now learning sitar and will play in Carnegie Hall this month as part of an Afghan youth orchestra.  It’s almost a fairy tale story, but it’s true.  As described in a recent New York Times article, Afghan music students, age 9 – 21, will travel to the U.S. and perform in both traditional ensembles and Western-style orchestras.  They are all students at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul, founded in 2010. This music school is a small step toward recovering from the Taliban years when music was banned, instruments were destroyed, and girls were not allowed to go to school.

William Harvey is an American violinist who conducts the orchestra at the school.  Both Western and traditional Afghan styles of music are taught, so students are learning violin, saxophone, tabla, sitar and electric guitar.  When it came time to create an orchestra ensemble, Harvey included them all.  “There are all these Afghan instruments,” he said, “all these Russian instruments plus Western instruments that aren’t usually in a western orchestra…the pianist wants to be in the orchestra, the saxophonist wants to be in the orchestra….So I take a masterpiece like the Four Seasons of Vivaldi, add Afghan instruments, Afghan rhythms, Afghan melodies, improvisations and then it becomes the Four Seasons of Afghanistan.”

Now that is a piece I would love to hear!

~ Liz

Click below for the New York Times video.

Afghan Youth Orchestra

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