Hi Friends of The Voice Project,
This is Ariana Delawari, ambassador for The Voice Project. I became involved with The Voice Project when our choir was asked to cover a song by the Gulu Ladies Choir of Uganda. A year later I found myself on a plane to Uganda with Hunter, Anna, Ryan, and Hadas. I am now writing to you from Kabul. I arrived here a few days ago, as The Voice Project is sponsoring the TEDx talk and performance I will be giving in a few weeks. I recorded an album here in Kabul a few years ago with my bandmates from LA and three Afghan Ustads, or master musicians. I also just finished a documentary film I have been making since 2002 about my journeys to Afghanistan, my family story, and the making of my album. Afghanistan has been the subject of my art for the last decade. This TEDx event is an exciting place for me to share my discoveries and work. I haven’t finalized my speech yet, but it will be about imagination, expression, and identity.
I will also be performing at a rock festival here in Kabul alongside some contemporary Afghan rock bands. One of the bands playing is a heavy metal band called “District Unkown”. They wear masks to hide their identity, as they have received death threats for playing heavy metal music which some have called “satanic”. The band actually recites Sufi verses in their songs, so the music is most certainly not “satanic” but its not unlike the reaction to Marylin Manson in the states when he emerged. It’s really cool to see young Afghans expressing themselves and not holding back. During the time of the Taliban music was banned and musicians literally had to hide their instruments or they could face death. That was only 11 years ago. This is a really different Afghanistan than the country my father grew up in. Unfortunately, after the Soviet invasion and civil wars, Afghanistan was left with no infrastructure and became the perfect breeding ground for fundamentalism. My father grew up in a time when Afghanistan was considered a really modern country in this region. Women were professionals, girls went to school, art was revered. People traveled here from all over the world in the 60s and 70s to vacation here, as it was literally considered one of the most beautiful places on earth. It still is in my opinion, but not without danger and the remnants of war. Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 things are slowly getting better, but there is a lot of work to be done and the constant haunting threat of Taliban resurgence. When I first came here, I knew that my life would change forever. I knew that I had found my muse. But I don’t think I really understood the depth of metamorphosis I would undergo. Spending time in refugee camps changes you. At first it opens your heart to its deepest depths. Then you start feeling haunted by what you have seen and experienced, there is definitely a sort of fall from grace that happens. Then, if you persist, and start to really do the work that comes with this kind of experience, and you find an infinite well of hope. You strip away the negativity within yourself, as you realize that the only way out is up. That we are so incredibly blessed to be born with so many opportunities, and we CAN make a difference for those who were not as lucky.
I’m at that point where I came through the storm of my own soul, and can see the horizon more clearly. Actually, my trip to Uganda with TVP totally contributed to that change. Going to a completely different country with a situation that is similar in certain ways, but totally unique to its own circumstances, gave me some much needed perspective. I was able to be slightly more objective, as I didn’t have the connection of my DNA and family history in it. It was a magical experience for me. To be there and witness such resilience, and more than anything, FORGIVENESS. The people of Uganda are masters of forgiveness. Wow ! what a powerful quality they have. And the work that The Voice Project is doing there is truly remarkable. Actually, I think that Afghanistan can learn from Uganda. Afghans can learn the power of forgiveness. We are proud people, sometimes this pride can get the best of us. Forgiveness is incredibly healing. In Uganda I witnessed tribal elders forgive the horrible acts of their abducted youth, as they understand that they were under the horrible dominance and abuse of the Lords Resistance Army. In Afghanistan, we can all learn to let go of any grudges from the past and really unite as one people.
Hopefully during this trip in Afghanistan I can share my own work and all of these experiences in such a way that I may bring some light and hope to this land. And also learn more, and connect with young Afghans who live here to find solutions together. I’m really really looking forward to connecting with the young afghan bands here. It’s truly an honor to get to be part of this moment in time, and I’m so thankful that The Voice Project sponsored my plane ticket for TEDx !
I will keep you guys posted as the events of my trip unfold. Thanks for listening !
Peace, Love, and Harmony !