The last thing I expected when I accepted an invitation to the opening ceremony of the Afghanistan national children’s anthem last Thursday was crying. But when I saw those beautiful faces and heard those young musicians playing our own national anthem, I could not keep the tears from my eyes. As I looked around at other audience members, I saw that many of them were crying also.

I had jumped at the chance to attend the concert.  When a friend who teaches violin at ANIM — Afghanistan National Institute of Music, asked me if I wanted to come, I replied with excitement.
“Of course I do!”
Unfortunately there isn’t much investment in children in Afghanistan. But now there will be an anthem for Afghan kids, which will be played everyday in schools that have the facilities.
That was the best news ever after all the disappointments, which I was feeling after the stoning of Rukhshana, a 19-year-old girl in Ghor province.
On Thursday, November 5th, I found myself at Amani High School, where the Afghanistan national children’s anthem was going to be played for the first time for a crowd of around 500 people, including high officials, artists, NGOs, journalists, ordinary people, and, of course, some children.


Students of ANIM at Amani High School, photo by Usuf Azarm

The children’s anthem was commissioned by Save the Children, endorsed and published by the Ministry of Education, recorded by TOLO TV, and written by ANIM. The words are by Dr. Sami Hamed, one of Afghanistan’s most famous living poets.

The ceremony opened with a wonderful recitation of the holy Quran by a boy of maybe ten or eleven, named Mahdi. This was a brilliant way of starting the celebration, given Mahdi’s outstanding performance.

Then we all stood for Afghanistan’s national anthem, played by ANIM’s students. This was one of the best live performances of our country’s national anthem that I have ever heard, and I confess that I became emotional. Everyone was stunned by the performance, and many eyes were wet.

ANIM’s students then played some old Afghan songs and music. The best part for me was the fact that I could see young boys and girls, sitting together, playing music together, and singing together, in a professional way.

Only two days before this concert, the New York Times disappointing article about Afghanistan, full of nonsense.

“The music has stopped. Well, not all the music, but most music funded by foreign donors. The last performance sponsored by the French Cultural Institute, in the past the main center for concerts of classical Afghan music, was attacked by a suicide bomber,” read the article. “Among the wounded was the head of the Afghan National Institute of Music, Ahmad Sarmast, whose music school has offered hope for poor but musically talented Afghan youths. He lost much of his hearing in the attack.” Read more.

This beautiful music that we heard at the ANIM concert was part of this “funded” culture.

The other amazing highlight of the day was the fact that the conductor of the Afghanistan national children anthem was a young girl named Negina Khpalwak. Not only she is the first female conductor in Afghanistan, but she is also the first in the region. Considering that there aren’t a lot of female conductors even in the West, this is a step forward for Afghanistan music.

This is thanks to the head of ANIM, Dr. Sarmast, and of course, to the talent and bravery of Negina. She is originally from Kunar, one of the most conservative provinces of Afghanistan, and had a difficult life until she was given a scholarship to come to Kabul and study at ANIM.

There was a young architect who was sitting beside me. He told me that he had been in many concerts by ANIM, and he was certain that every yearthey became more professional. I think he was right. Not only were they professional with Afghan instruments like the rubab, the setar, and the tambur, they alsowere very good at western instruments like the trumpet, the cello, the violin, and the piano.

After more music by the ANIM orchestra, and some speeches by high officials and artists, First Lady Rula Ghani played the music video of Afghanistan Children’s Anthem for the first time.

Then the ceremony finished with everyone wanting selfie of themselves with celebrities and ANIM artists.


Hope and beauty outweigh chaos and danger at Kabul children’s concert

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About The Author
- I am a citizen journalist based in Kabul