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Nov-20-2013 15:20printcomments

Kabul's School of Rock Offers Lessons for Life

"It is very difficult and it is not very common here, particularly for girls, to learn music. Girls can go to school to learn how to read and write, but music is an unreachable desire" - Meena Yousufzai, 22

Sign in Kabul from 2007 demonstrates Afghanistan's position toward music.
Sign in Kabul from 2007 demonstrates Afghanistan's position toward music. photo by Tim King

(KABUL AFP) - With a sense of showmanship that would have impressed Freddie Mercury, Salahdeen, aged seven, struts his way through a passionate rendition of "We Will Rock You" - all part of the learning process at Kabul's "school of rock".

Afghan music students chat and practice the guitar
at "Kabul School of Rock," on October 22, 2013
(AFP/File, Massoud Hossaini) Courtesy: AFP

Founded two years ago in a living room in the Afghan capital, the school has grown into a busy youth club based at an arts centre with a recording studio and 35 students mastering singing, the guitar and drums.

The walls are covered in murals of local life and musical heroes such US duo The White Stripes, while the garden outside is decorated with graffiti paintings including one of a woman struggling with her veil.

"This is the only place in Afghanistan to learn rock music," Omar Paiman, 18, a spiky-haired fan of Linkin Park, told AFP.

"I am really interested in guitar, and I have had lessons for seven months. My family didn't want me being a singer or a musician because Afghan people don't have a good opinion of rock music.""Some people threaten to kill artists. My dad is a construction engineer and wanted me to follow him," Omar added as he strummed through a few chords of the Bob Dylan classic "Knockin' On Heaven's Door".

The Taliban outlawed almost all music during their 1996-2001 rule of Kabul, and Afghanistan remains a conservative Muslim country with widespread suspicion of Western influences.

But rock school founder Humayun Zadran said that the hunger among young people for a blast of electric guitar became clear when teenagers clamoured to get involved with jam sessions that he held at his home with friends.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.


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