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DATE PUBLISHED: 1400/05/18 - 11:06:1
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Afghan orchestras and artists insist Taliban wonít stop the music

Afghanistanís first all-female orchestra has launched a fundraising drive - not to go on tour or buy instruments - but to build an underground bunker in the event of an attack.

Under the "Be part of Zohraís Journey" page, the number one request reads: "Make a donation"

"Your financial contribution will help: 01 - Build an underground dining facility to be used as a bunker in case of attacks. Target: $150,000.

Less than two and a half years ago the Zohra orchestra was dazzling audiences around Europe and receiving standing ovations after sold out concerts in key cities. But now as the security situation in Afghanistan deteriorates, they, like all Afghan artists, musicians and actors fear for their future, and safety.

When the Taliban were in power, from 1996 to 2001, they banned art, theatre and music. They burned books and DVDs and destroyed televisions and musical instruments.

Many artists fled the country.

While the Taliban insist they have changed, two weeks ago they killed a popular comedian, Nazar Mohammad, in Kandahar and last week, shot dead Dawa Khan Menapal, the head of the governmentís media and information department, in Kabul.

Speaking to the UKís Daily Times, Ahmad Sarmast, the founder of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (Amin), which runs Zohra, said: "We have seen this movie before."

"The entire nation was silenced under the Taliban and the music stopped."

He insists that will not be allowed to happen again. "The Afghanistan of today is a very different place to when they took over in 1996, particularly the youth who are aware of their rights and wonít let anyone take them away."

The music school has 350 students of which almost a third are female. Among them is Meena Karimi, 16, a cellist who took part in the tour to the UK, the Times reported.

She says she and the other female members discuss every day which provinces have fallen to the Taliban. Last month they were horrified when rockets were fired into the presidential palace compound.

"I was really shocked - if a rocket can even go in the presidentís home, things are really bad," she said. "But we need to be strong. Iíve heard stories about the Taliban and how horrible it was but I think our new generation is stronger. Me and my friends will not let the Taliban stop our music."

The orchestra has been targeted three times since 2014 when a concert was attacked by a suicide bomber, But for Meena, "music is healing".

"When I am sad I play to be happy and after all these years of war our country needs that."

Last month the institute moved into a new larger campus and took delivery of ten new pianos as well as crates of instruments. "We have not stopped and will continue to fight Taliban with the beauty of music," Sarmast told the Times.

Zohraís musicians are the first women in their families, communities and country to study music in over 30 years. They come from provinces across Afghanistan to live in Kabul and study at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music.

 

LINK: https://www.ansarpress.com/english/23501


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