Young Afghan musicians to tour US
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Not so long ago Fakira roamed the mean streets of the Afghan capital, hawking magazines for US$0.13 (S$0.16) apiece to support her poverty-stricken family. Next month, the 15-year-old cellist appears in America's most prestigious concert halls, performing alongside other former street children and orphans of Afghanistan's decades of violence.
"Suddenly my whole life changed, and now I am going to America," she says, recounting her chance encounter with a rather improbable school that's reviving music, both Western classical and Afghan, in a country where the Taleban had made even listening to it a crime - and where a generation of musicians vanished through killings, old age or exile.
The teenager, who uses only one name like many Afghans, will be playing in the Afghan Youth Orchestra, which on Feb 3 begins a 12-day United States tour that includes concerts at Washington's Kennedy Center - President Barrack Obama has been invited - New York's Carnegie Hall and the New England Conservatory in Boston. "Most reports about Afghanistan are about suicide bombings, killings, destruction, corruption, (depicting) Afghanistan as a place where hope has died," says Mr Ahmad Sarmast, who leads the youth orchestra.
He says the young musicians will try "to show a different Afghanistan, an Afghanistan where hope is alive and the people are striving to bring about changes. The kids are the symbol of hope." The orchestra is the centerpiece of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, which Mr Sarmast founded two years ago. By all accounts, the music institute is proving a success story in a country where failed development projects - through poor planning, corruption or militant violence - are more the norm.