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This all-female orchestra from Afghanistan is a real force for change

2 min read

Better Society
This all-female orchestra from Afghanistan is a real force for change
Source: Zohra music

For the first time in more than 30 years the Zohra Orchestra in Afghanistan is teaching young girls to play the music of their dreams.

These are the first women in their families, community and country to learn music in over 30 years

The Zohra Orchestra is the winner of the Freemuse Award 2017 and is the first and only all-women orchestra in Afghanistan. They are students at the National Institute of Music (ANIM) and the first women in their families, community and country to learn music in over 30 years. Earlier this year they were invited to perform for the World Economic Forum’s Annual General Meeting Closing Concert at Davos, where they announced a World Tour.

Ensemble Zohra - Afghan Women’s Orchestra Fighting extremism through music. Source: Facebook/BrightVibes

The first ever all–female ensemble in the history of Afghanistan

In 2014, a young trumpeter called Meena went to the office of ANIM’s director, Dr Sarmast. Meena wanted something. She wanted something that had never existed before in Afghanistan. Meena asked Dr Sarmast if she and her friends could form an all-girl ensemble. They wanted to play music on their own, and develop their own style of playing and repertoire. Since one of ANIM’s great focuses is girls’ education, Dr Sarmast was thrilled by the idea. So the Afghan Women’s Orchestra was born. It is the first ever all-female ensemble in the history of Afghanistan.

Source & Images: Anim-Music.org

but now over 30 young Afghan women play together. They rehearse twice a week, with more intensive rehearsals before concerts.
The Afghan Women’s Orchestra began with fewer than ten players but now over 30 young Afghan women play together. They rehearse twice a week, with more intensive rehearsals before concerts. Source: Anim-Music.org

The ensemble choose their own repertoire

The Afghan Women’s Orchestra began with fewer than ten players, but now over 30 young Afghan women play together. They rehearse twice a week, with more intensive rehearsals before concerts. The girls play in the orchestra from Grade 6. The older students help out the younger ones, and they also choose their own repertoire.

They play Afghan and Western music and are conducted by specialist teachers and students. The existence of this orchestra, along with the pride and joy you see on the girls’ faces as they play together, shows how much things have changed in Afghanistan. It also shows just what can be achieved when a young girl walks into an office, clearly asks for what she wants, and is the given the opportunity.

Ensemble Zohra is featured on an album titled "The Rosegarden of Light," released via the UK label Toccata Classics and distributed internationally by the well-known Naxos label. The recordings of their music have been played across England on BBC Radio as well as the official radio station of the London Symphony, across the United States on National Public Radio as well as many local stations, and across all of Europe via special podcasts.

They have received overwhelmingly positive reviews on websites, in magazines, and on the air all over the world and in many languages.

This shows how the idea of one young girl can not only transform the lives of many of her friends, but also transform the international perception of her country and bring increased awareness to women’s rights issues. 

Source: Anim-Music.org

The recordings of their music have been played across England on BBC Radio as well as the official radio station of the London Symphony, across the United States on National Public Radio as well as many local stations, and across all of Europe via special podcasts. Below: the women perform at Davos.
Ensemble Zohra is featured on an album titled “The Rosegarden of Light,” The recordings of their music have been played across England on BBC Radio as well as the official radio station of the London Symphony, across the United States on National Public Radio as well as many local stations, and across all of Europe via special podcasts. Below: the women perform at Davos. Source: Anim-Music.org

The orchestra perform in Davos for the World Economic Forum’s 2017 AGM The ensemble were invited to perform for the World Economic Forum’s Annual General Meeting Closing Concert at Davos earlier this year, where they announced a World Tour. Source: Youtube/RajamanickamAntonimuthu
Make an Impact

Fighting Extremism With Music! Back this project on Kickstarter! CLICK for details

Dan Blackwell is traveling to Kabul to record Afghanistan's first female orchestra to promote equality and fight extremism with music. All or nothing: this project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Wed, August 9 2017 3:32 PM CEST (£1,150 pledged so far of £1,500 goal)