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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


Filed under:  Afghanistan • Latest Episode
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. 1josh2012

    Where people sing, and enjoy their live, you don´t need to be hesitant to settle. Because the evilwilling do not know a song.

    February 14, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Reply
  2. Steve Turner

    The only music or any kind of culture is happening in Afghanistan is because the US and NATO allies like Britain and Canada have provided the kind of security to allow it to grow. But once the US pulls out and the Afghans have to defend themselves, I predict the Taliban will come roaring back even stronger. They will stop at nothing to achieve their goal of a stone-age Muslim Sharia law society, where throwing acid in the faces of school girls is accepted behaviour. The Taliban is heavily armed from its proxy supporters like Iran and other extremist Muslim states, and it has no shortage of fanatics who are willing to be martyred in the jihad. The only way to defeat them is for a massive military assault that would have to include the invasion of Pakistan, their home base. That will never happen. I see nothing but misery for the poor people of Afghanistan in the years ahead, as long as this evil curse called extremist Islam exists.

    February 14, 2013 at 5:29 pm | Reply
    • Lost

      The women will then become vigilantes & murderers. They will have to in order to survive and change the destructive course. They will begin sacrificing themselves, until the Taliban are no more. They will not wait for rights, because the human will to live will propel them forward.

      February 18, 2013 at 4:43 am | Reply
  3. Tom Cruise

    Steve Turner your are correct, the taliban is supported by the ISI or Paki and Saudi/Iranian similar to the "rebels" in Syria . They are affraid of stability in Afghanistan, Pakistan is afraid the Aghans will side with India, Iran has nothing to gain for stability in Afghanistan, currently both countries have constructed means of the fresh water from the afghan slopes shifted towards their countries. Afghanistan was a major power in asia in the 50's-60's until the soviet invasion. If with the help of the UN invading the border regions of Pakistan this will solve this problem..Or build a wall to keep the Paki roaches out.

    February 15, 2013 at 2:40 am | Reply
  4. Kindall

    Beautiful, love to hear the good stories from Afghanistan

    February 15, 2013 at 2:42 am | Reply
  5. raj

    Its amazing even today we see two contrast of country development one living in terror and others just propsper its all about the very people who live in their ideology the way to live life and their determination europe asia has seen enough wars and attrocities and at least now they are moving away from that and more in the development side hope all nations follow the same and enjoy a healthy terror free living.....

    February 15, 2013 at 2:44 am | Reply
  6. Onno Legare

    Steve Islam fanaticism is so cruel to our lives! Were we to wake up in a world without this curse, i'm telling you the sun will shine brighter! The problem with Islam in general is that even if all People were to become muslims fighting won't stop. The same cannot be said about Christianity. Look at the gulf between Roman catholicism and the Protestant Church but they do not lynch each other. Sunni and Shia are closer but cannot co-exist peacefully.

    February 15, 2013 at 3:35 am | Reply
  7. grant

    This piece in the Cristiane Amanpour program was uplifting and I cannot believe some of the negative comments I've read about it. If these children from Afghanistan want to play their hearts out, the best of luck to them. Maybe they and their music will help make their country a better, more hopeful place.

    February 15, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Reply
  8. Lost

    The children must defeat the Taliban.

    February 18, 2013 at 4:40 am | Reply
  9. Rachel Sahar

    As an Afghan American and one of the pioneer females who worked hard to have Afghanistan have access to International TV from Los Angeles California, so their voices could be heard through out the world, now we see that all that hard work and labor of love is being paid off. I see the future of Afghanistan as bright and hopeful as the faces of these young beautiful students who are waiting for success and triumph of Afghanistan after 3 decades of war. we hope that the relationship between Afghanistan And the united States would remain of one solid and unbreakable friendship. It's time for all Afghans to become united and buildthe the country together without the interference of their neighbors out of jealousy. Afghanistan (Aryaana or Khuraasaan) is a beautiful country full of resources. Let's choose the person who is worldlywise, globally aware and diplomatically keen as a leader of this country.

    February 19, 2013 at 1:28 am | Reply
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