Posted on February 18, 2013
Tuesday last week I traveled from Albany to New York City to see/hear the Afghan Youth Orchestra with two young Afghans and their Mother/caretaker while they are in the US going to school. We arrived found parking and wondered around Times Square until it was time to attend the concert. All of us had been anticipating this day since we had decided to come.
The story of the Orchestra is remarkable. As the Minister of Education His Excellency Faroq Wardak stated, “Music is in our past, our present and our future.” One of the tragedy’s of Afghan history was the destruction of all musical instruments and means of playing music by the Taliban who mistakenly believe that music is unIslamic. Dr. Ahman Sarmast who had emigrated to Australia began a systematic revival of Afghan Music returning to Kabul to develop the The Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM). The school located in Kabul is “committed to providing a dynamic, challenging, and safe learning environment for all students, regardless of gender , ethnicity, or social circumstances. ANIM focusses on supporting the most disadvantaged group in Afghan society — the orphans and street-working children– by helping them attain a vocation that will allow them to reach their full potential, while contributing to their emotional health.”
The concert was two days before Valentines days so it was interesting attempting to describe the holiday and all the roses in the flower markets and heart decorations.
As we waited for the concert to begin we made contact with a women sitting behind us who had taught William Harvey the conductor who had been a Juilliard student. The concert began with a number of very traditional Afghan Folk tunes played by a number of the Afghan traditional stringed instruments. These students set on low carpet-covered platforms playing in the traditional style featuring both girls and boys.
Aqil, who I sat next to, recited the words to the tunes as I asked what the meaning was of the music. The first was a love song for Afghanistan and the second a love song for a woman. The instruments ranged from the sitar in the center, rubab on the left, tabla (percussion) behind, ghichak on the right, and sarod, tanbur and dilruba in between. I was told by both the young Afghans that there was one instrument not represented.
The two remarkable pieces that they played were Ravel’s Bolero and an adaptation of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, The Four Seasons of Afghanistan. It really was sweet to read the notes and realize just how much of the culture I have absorbed through the years and the depth of the four seasons.
Here is the New York Times review of the concert.
After the concert, Aqil and Mursal wanted to met the Afghan students so we found our way to the back stage door and waited. Aqil dressed in traditional Afghan dress was often mistaken for one of the orchestra. Please if you wish to know more about the Afghan youth orchestra and their journey and hear some of their music follow the following videos:
Here is the ending piece for peace that they also played as an encore.
I do hope that you enjoy the gift these young musicians share with us.
Dreaming of Peace for these young people,
Posted on October 21, 2012
Many of you have mentioned that you are waiting to see some of my new work from the trip to West Africa. I will give a general overview of the trip in my next post for now I would like to share with you a current exhibit I set up just before I left for West Africa and will continue into the beginning of November.
Afghan Portraits: Windows to the Soul
Hudson Valley Community College Library, Troy, New York
September 1, 2012 – November 9, 2012
A link to the library hours. https://www.hvcc.edu/learning-commons/hours.html
Afghan Women Speak
Fall 2012 Voices, A Library Lecture Series
Hudson Valley Community College
Bulmer Telecommunications Center Auditorium
Thursday, November 8 Noon – 12:50 p.m.
Connie Frisbee Houde, a photojournalist who has traveled deep into the heart of Afghanistan, will share images that give voice to Afghan women. In her audiovisual presentation will depict the realities of Afghan life as the women attempt to keep alive their autonomy, culture and community. The poignant beauty of Afghanistan and the strength of its own women will be evident.