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Young musicians seek to show new Afghan face

Published on Feb 5, 2013 9:47 AM
Gulalai Norestani (second right) and Huma Rahimy (right), members of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music Sitar and Sarod Ensemble, performing in the Dean Aceson Auditorium on Monday in Washington, DC. The performance kicks off a three-city tour of the US. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Some of them call an orphanage home. One used to spend her days selling plastic bags. And this month, the Afghan teenagers are taking the stage of the most prestigious US concert halls.

In a vivid sign of Afghanistan's transformation, 48 students from the country's first music institute are touring the United States to showcase a unique blend of restored traditional music and Western classics.

When Milad Yousufi was a child, the Taleban ruled most of Afghanistan and imposed an austere interpretation of Islam that banned music as sinful. He took up piano five years ago and recently placed third at an international competition in Germany.

"Music is the only thing we can bring peace by," said the 18-year-old, who wears his hair fashionably long and counts Claudio Arrau and Vladimir Horowitz among his piano heroes.

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