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Formerly forbidden, Afghan music plays new tune

February 14th, 2013
01:01 PM ET

By Samuel Burke & Juliet Fuisz 

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, there was no music – certainly not in the open.

The Taliban rounded up and destroyed instruments and cassette tapes, string their entrails on branches as a warning to others who dare thinking of listening to or playing music. Only religious chants were permitted; public performances were unthinkable.

That tune has been changing since the Taliban’s fall more than 11 years ago.

Now the Afghan Youth Orchestra is reviving music in the country. This week they made it all the way from Kabul to New York’s esteemed Carnegie Hall.

Thanks to the leadership of their maestro, Afghan musician Ahmad Sarmast, the Afghan Ministry of Education, and money from the United States and its international partners, the student musicians were able to make the adage that “practice, practice, practice” gets you to Carnegie Hall come true.

Sarmast, their teacher and conductor, had fled Afghanistan, and returned only in 2006. He founded the Afghan Youth Orchestra and an institute that now trains 141 students between the ages of 10 and 21. Half of these students are street children and orphans; 41 of them are girls.

In the video above you can see them perform and discuss their passion for music with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

READ MORE: In Afghanistan, 11-year-old girl married to 40-year-old man


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