Music returns to Afghanistan

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MARCO WERMAN: The main US goal in Afghanistan and Pakistan is to defeat Taliban and al-Qaeda militants but in Afghanistan at lest there are other ways to measure success. One of them is music. When the Taliban ran the country there were no concerts in Afghanistan and no music programs on radio or TV either. Teaching music was forbidden as well. But that's not the case anymore. There's a music school in Kabul for instance. The World's Aaron Schachter went to check it out.

AARON SCHACHTER: Kabul's new National Institute of Music isn't much to look at. There are gaping holes in the walls, rubble in hallways, and some classes are held in tents.


SCHACHTER: The Taliban destroyed it in 1992 and stole everything. Drums were used for flower pots, pianos for firewood. Even the power lines were stolen. Ahmad Sarmast an Afghan who had moved to Australia to escape the Taliban heard about the school's plight. He returned to help get it back on its feet.

AHMAD SARMAST: They didn't have any musical instruments, no teaching and learning material, no specialist music teachers, not the facilities that the students need for a proper music education like sound proofing rooms.

SCHACHTER: The building is being renovated. Donations from Poland started the rehabilitation in 2001. There are now 130 kids who have committed to a 12-month curriculum. Half the day will be spent doing regular subjects, the other half studying music. But the year-round schooling isn't the only difference here. The violinist is 14-year-old Frishta. She got here a month ago.

SARMAST TRANSLATES: She said before coming here I was selling plastics on the street and I had a very tough life.

SARMAST: So that's why she should be here and I will do everything to keep her here.

SCHACHTER: Sarmast has reserved half the places here for orphans or street kids. Frishta used to make $25 a month selling plastics bags on the street � money her family couldn't afford to lose. So Sarmast makes that up out of his own pocket. His wife and daughter support two other children. He's trying to create a scholarship fund for more.

SARMAST: I dedicated the last three years of my professional and my academic career to this project. Why? I know that I'm doing something fundamental. I'm doing something fundamental to the kids of Afghanistan and I'm doing something fundamental for the music of Afghanistan.

SCHACHTER: Sarmast is hiring a dozen teachers from around the world including a few specialists in Afghan music. Ironically they were the hardest to find. Little Afghan music is written down. Musicians traditionally learned it by listening to others and that oral tradition was nearly lost during 30 years of civil war and nearly a decade of Taliban rule. For The World I'm Aaron Schachter in Kabul, Afghanistan.

WERMAN: You can see some pictures of the Kabul music school and some of its students on our website � that's The World dot org.