Afghan Youth Orchestra Kicks Off US Tour

A group of students from Afghanistan’s music academy kicked off their first tour to the United States on Monday at the U.S. State Department. The 48 musicians from the Afghan National Institute of Music (ANIM) includes performances at Washington’s Kennedy Center and New York’s Carnegie Hall.

The visit by the musicians, aged 10 to 22, many of whom are orphans or street children was aimed at improving Afghanistan’s image after more than a decade of fighting in the war ravaged country. AMIN head Ahmad Sarmast told reporters; “The major objective of the trip is to change the perception of Afghanistan, to show the public the … positive changes that are most of the time overlooked or (hidden) behind the violence, the roadside bombings.”

He also noted that the young musicians have been instructed not to remain behind in the United States while on the tour. He said the U.S. Embassy in Kabul had issued the informal warning. State Department spokeswoman, Eileen O’Connor said the warning was in line with the department’s guidelines for travelers.

When the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 1996, they banned music. Sarmast is the first Afghan to earn a doctorate in music and set up the music school in 2010. The school is operated under the Ministry of Education with funding from overseas sources. Most of the school’s 140 full time students are orphans or street children with a third of them being girls.

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