The Afghan Youth Orchestra, many of whose members are not far removed from eking out a living on the streets of Kabul, is on the New York leg of a U.S. tour that melds Western classics with traditional Afghan music.
About 50 players held a joint rehearsal Monday with 25 members of the Scarsdale High School orchestra, which meant that young musicians from a war-torn country where music was banned for several years by the Taliban were playing alongside those from one of New York’s toniest suburbs.
“This is all providing a model for the future of Afghanistan,” said William Harvey, the Afghan orchestra’s American conductor and arranger. “The recomposed music, taking the best from both worlds, and the cooperation between the Afghan kids and the Scarsdale kids, shows what has to happen for Afghanistan.”
Among the pieces rehearsed in advance of Tuesday night’s Carnegie program were adaptations of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and Ravel’s “Bolero,” both incorporating Afghan instruments and rhythms.
A handful of people in the Scarsdale auditorium got to hear familiar melodies perked up with such instruments as the sitar, dilruba and ghichak. Some of the Afghan musicians were barefoot.
Hojat Hameed, 21, a violinist who also plays electric guitar in a rock band, said he became interested in music when he heard a Celine Dion recording.
“That made me want to become a musician,” he said. “I could feel I wanted to come home to music.”
Some of the Afghans may have been saved from desperate lives by the music school.
“One of my violinists used to sell chewing gum on the street,” said Harvey, who spoke to the musicians in English and Dari, one of Afghanistan’s two main languages. “She had to. The Taliban had beaten her father paralyzed and he couldn’t work.”
Ahmad Sarmast, who founded the school, said hearing the orchestra play was “a touching experience.”View Entire Story
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
The young drop coverage to avoid higher premiums
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
A look at what’s new and what’s worth driving, no matter the budget.
Finding health and health care is not easy. It is changing. Know what's on the rise.
Television commentary, reviews, news and nonstop DVR catch-up.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall
NRA kicks off annual convention
California wildfires wreak havoc