Just arrived in Kabul! Weird how familiar Kabul feels from last January. Weirder still is that there is a sewing machine in the room at the guest house.
The air quality is strikingly poor and quite suffocating.
Saw Elham and Milad the two best pianists at the school. They came to school even though it was a weekend! Weekends here are Thursday and Friday. The week runs Saturday through Wednesday.
Click on the pictures to view in a larger size.
Please leave a comment!
KABUL Dec. 2010/Jan 2011
In December of 2010, I was invited to visit the Afghanistan National Institute of Music’s winter academy in Kabul, Afghanistan. My good friends violinist William Harvey and cellist Robin Ryczek work at the school and they were responsible for inviting me to Kabul. ANIM secured funding from the US Embassy there.
The school itself is an inspiration. Bustling with energy and activity. Had a few moments to sit down with Dr. Ahmed Sarmast, the director of the school. The resulting interview is here. There are two things he said that stand out in my mind. One is the report he cited from the World Bank that “[one] can’t have economic development or political stability without also having cultural development.” Another is the story about starting the school. Dr. Sarmast had travelled to Australia to visit foundations to request funding to start the school. Without success he returned to Kabul. On the plane ride back, during one of the connections, he was chatting with some people at an airport and mentioned the purpose of his trip. They said “you should submit a proposal to us.” It turned out they were from the World Bank and they gave $2 million to start the school. Hear Dr. Sarmast tell the story and many others in his own words.
Half the students in the school are orphaned or homeless children. The school pays the families the equivalent of $30/month, the amount they would make selling chewing gum or something like that on the streets. The other half of the students were previously students in another art school that did not have a music program.
Meet Milad who had many works by Chopin and Bach on his cell phone and asked me to play them for him:
They teach rock music at the school as well. Here’s a video of myself jamming with two students:
Beautiful rugs and scarves in Kabul.
Also was introduced to a dish called Kaboli Palou. Here’s a recipe.
Here is a piece by AlJazeera about the school:
And here are some impressions of the city and the school at the time:
“old Kabul is where we went…there are 4 million people in the city built for 100,000. estimated 1,000,000 street kids. people flooding the streets, bicycles and fruit sellers..dust and trash everywhere, so many buildings that are destroyed or partially destroyed amidst swarms of small shops on tiny rock streets. no trees to speak of. all destroyed by an effort to eliminate guerrilla warfare I’m told..women in burkas…full covering not just head scarves…there has been no rain and no snow…so it smells like burning feces everywhere. air quality is obviously horrific. lots of traffic. river is really quite disgusting. houses built up on the mountains…check points everywhere…guards with guns everywhere. haven’t seen any military people yet. i know there are various infrastructure projects to try to regenerate the trees and create schools for kids etc. but the corruption and cronyism here, I’m told, means that certain things will be destroyed purposely just to give to work to various people which slows everything down. the mayor is super active apparently and has paved many of the streets…so many of the roads are decently paved. Dr. Sarmast, the head of the school, has a high social standing here…his father was a famous trumpet player. He started the school on his own though, btw, and has most of his big support from the world bank ($2 million donation that was a result of a proposal he made) and the germans…the goethe institute and the embassy (donations in the hundreds of thousands). He has told me many stories about political moves he has had to make to secure the relative fiscal autonomy of the school As a result the book keeping at the school is impeccable because it needs to be able to withstand constant scrutiny. Most of the donations are done only on this basis though. Dr. Sarmast is Afghan, from Kabul. I’m going to interview him. The workers at the school are all Afghan and all the furniture, whenever possible, is Afghan. The architect was Afghan, and the the new concert hall designed by an Afghan, being built by end of next year. There is a lot of international support. I’m working with a few others to have some pianos donated to the school.. Sarmast told me the US embassy will possibly take care of transport…military transport. That is the only way, right now to ship things. The germans used a military plane to get the instrument donations. By the way, the school teaches western and afghan musical traditions. They are hiring this guitar and rubab player to create a method book for afghan. He is a guest artist here now too…from one of the most respected Afghan musical families. Khaled Arman. His father Hossein Arman, was apparently a major force in the Afghan musical revival in the 60s…don’t know much about that or him…but he was at the last concert….my favorite quote from a student ‘music and sadness creates happiness’ ”
PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW AND LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK!