Voice Project Ambassador Ariana Delawari has been blogging at our Facebook page and we’re reposting them here. She just played three day alternative music festival and an ALL WOMEN AND GIRLS ROCK CONCERT IN KABUL!!…The seeds of a music peace revolution in Afghanistan. “During Taliban time, you could be killed for playing music…they literally hung all these instruments in the center of town and said if we catch you with an instrument we’ll hang you as well.” The Voice Project is very proud to supporting her efforts.
The last few days in Kabul have been truly beautiful and amazing. I have been playing a rock festival here – the Sound Central Music Festival – and have been meeting some really incredible young Afghans. The festival was created by Travis Beard, a super rad wild Australian guy. Travis started the festival last year, and though I wasn’t here to witness it, I heard that it was a huge success. I was sad to miss it last year, as I was busy finishing my documentary, so I was SO stoked to be able to play this year. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for The Voice Project sponsoring my TEDx Kabul event (which is coming up after the festival), so I am incredibly thankful for this support.
A few years ago there was literally no word of a music scene in Kabul. I am sure it was happening, but in people’s rooms or at really underground parties. There were no venues or rock concerts. Travis has created a beautiful thing. The festival is held in a really secure environment with lots of armed guards and security checkpoints. The bands that have surfaced are so amazing and all really different from each other. “Kabul Dreams” is like a punk/garage band. The guys are super sweet and ready to take their show on the road. Apparently last year they were invited to play SXSW with The Kills but couldn’t get their trip sponsored. Maybe someone reading this will help them out this year ? for SXSW or other rad festivals in the world? Another amazing band who played the festival is called “District Unknown”. They are a metal band- definitely Afghanistan’s very first metal band. They used to wear masks when they played, cause they were receiving death threats. Playing metal in Afghanistan is pretty much like when Marilyn Manson came out in the states. More conservative Afghans are worried that they are Satanic worshippers because of their genre. In reality they are actually reciting Sufi poetry in some of their lyrics, so its about people not paying close enough attention and just making a judgement. I do understand it though, its only been a decade since the Taliban fell from power in this land. They banned music, it was literally punishable by death. That gives you an idea of how courageous these bands are. Sound Central also made a point of bringing in International musicians, like Omar Farooq from Pakistan and a Sri Lankan band called “Paranoid Earthling”. There has always been a lot of tension with our neighbor Pakistan, so bringing Omar here has been part of an attempt to bridge cultures and create peace through music. You can read about all of the artists and acts in the festival here: http://soundcentralfestival.com/ Each was amazing and the spirit of the festival was a truly collaborative one.
There is also a really amazing program here called Sound Studies that Robin Ryczek and Humayun Zadran run together. This program teaches young Afghans music and songwriting classes. It also provides a venue for them to play and learn at. They are also building a recording studio. Sound Studies and the festival are linked in the work they do. You can learn more about sound studies here http://www.soundstudiesprojects.com/.
I have been traveling to Afghanistan for the last 10 years, and I have to say this festival is one of the most magical things I have seen taking place in Kabul. It is really really beautiful to see young Afghans having so much fun, and truly embracing music. I was a little concerned about playing the festival. I really didn’t know how I would be received as an Afghan woman. There has literally never been a female Afghan rock musician performing in this country, definitely some folk singers way back in the 70s, but nothing like it since. There are a few pop singers, but women have a really difficult time in the performing arts. Actresses and television hosts have literally fled the country cause of death threats, or in extreme situations have been targeted and killed. It is a sensitive situation, and though things are changing, there is still a lot of tension in this land. So I really didn’t know what to expect. The timing of TEDx and my trip was so in line with the festival that it seemed cosmic, so I came. Thank god i did. I am totally blown away by the young Afghan bands here and how beautiful and appreciative the crowds have been. Just the sweetest, most gracious kids ever. We also played Kabul University one morning, separate from the festival and the security of the festival, and that experience was also incredible. I feel really lucky to witness what is pretty much the birth or re birth of rock and roll in Afghanistan. There have definitely been kids playing underground, as I said earlier, but this kind of event gives them the opportunity to play a real festival. Being a musician is truly an honor. The feeling of sharing a stage with other souls, hearing each others work, playing on each others songs is a magical way to experience life.
Over 60 percent of the population in Afghanistan are under 18 years old. This is a country of youth. And I really believe that the key to peace in this land lies in youth culture. And also in the connection between youth and their elders. As Afghans our culture is heavily based around the respect of our elders. In many ways it is a beautiful beautiful thing. Today I visited a children’s music school. It is an incredible school called ANIM Afghan National Institute of Music. The kids totally blew me away with their show. It was teacher appreciation day, and I saw the beauty of how respectful children are in this land. That aspect of our culture is really special, and something that I feel is lacking in western culture or at least American culture where our emphasis is so heavily based on youth culture that we neglect our elders. The negative side of this is that youth really have very little voice here. They are pretty much taught to obey their elders. I find this disconnect to be problematic in present day Afghanistan when it is young people who are becoming suicide bombers in some of the provinces. We need more creative outlets and creative solutions here. We need these intelligent, talented young Afghans to be heard so that their ideas and work can spread into the rest of the country where their is more conservative thinking. Young people are more inclined to create unity. And unity leads to peace.
Afghanistan is an ancient land. Our culture is very complex and layered. It is an exciting challenge for all of us to find ways to create a peaceful nation, introduce creative new ideas that can create positive change, while respecting and honoring our ancient traditions. There is a beautiful and delicate balance that is to be had. This challenge is a big one, but I believe that we can take it on as a global collective with Afghan locals working to lead the way.