In Afghanistan, the Taliban banned the instruction of girls and music for quite some time – and although many women still find themselves restricted, one 17-year-old has become the nation’s first female conductor.
Kabul is a noisy place with choppers, sirens, and significant traffic. But walking right into a building in one of the city’s more quiet neighbourhoods, quite another sound welcomed me.
Boys and girls are playing with flute, cello and the piano together with conventional Afghan stringed instruments like sarod and the rubab. Here is the Afghanistan National Institute of Music – the sole school of its own type in the united states.
The female pupils have just finished their very first concert. Their male co-workers were observing and are now milling around, playing and conversing before heading home in the conclusion of a significant day.
What was so particular concerning this concert – apart from the fact that it had been an all-female ensemble playing music to a large audience in the middle of violence-ridden Kabul – was that it was directed by the nation ‘s very first female conductor, 17-year-old Negin Khpolwak who can also be a pupil here.
Now, she has retreatNow, she’s pulled away to one of the rehearsal rooms along a concrete corridor where she is sitting at the piano playing among her favourite pieces – Piano Sonatina in C major by the Italian composer Muzio Clementi.
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I could see she is still learning it but what she lacks in experience, she makes up for with her spirit and passion.
“Khosh Amadeed – welcome,” says Negin with a bashful smile. “Today my hands are hurting a bit so I am not on a top form. However, I love practising the piano.
“All I desire would be to become a really good concert pianist and conductor, not only in Afghanistan, but in the entire world,” she says.
“Thus did you grow up around music?” I ask.
She comes from a poor family in Kunar province, a traditional region – among the strongholds of the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan’s north east.
“So I had to go to Kabul to fulfil my wish. My father helped me.”