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From Afghanistan to World Bank, Youth Orchestra Brings a Beautiful Harmony

Ravi Kumar's picture

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Afghanistan National Institute of Music Concert

Students from the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) play in the Wolfensohn Atrium.

There are days when your faith in humanity is not only restored but strengthened. Today was one of those days.

On a sunny afternoon in Washington, D.C., young students from Afghanistan showed off their musical talent in an orchestral performance at the World Bank.

I was inspired and excited to see the group of musicians, aged 9 to 21, who had travelled so far from a war-torn country to perform. As someone who grew up during a decade-long civil war in Nepal, I can in some ways relate to their hard work, persistence, and determination to excel despite all odds.

There they were, perched on a red carpet with smiles on their faces, eager to impress their audience. The first row was all boys in their white Kurtas (tuxedos) holding their musical instruments. Girls in the second row sat on chairs in their black Salwar Kameez, with green, black and red scarves on their heads.

The audience gathered around the colorful stage as the World Bank’s atrium filled with energy and music.

Some of these students from Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) once sold chewing gum on the streets of Kabul. The school has 150 students, about half of them orphans and former street children, and about one-third of them girls. I was surprised to find out that they learn Western and traditional Afghan instruments in addition to regular academic subjects.

I have to admit that I’m little envious of these students who get to learn not only textbook content but also music. When I was a student in Nepal, my school didn’t teach us how to play musical instruments. In fact, they discouraged us. As I wrote in my recent blog, a decade ago it was a norm in South Asia for parents to discourage careers in the arts.  

Photos by Simone McCourtie and Roxana Bravo © The World Bank.

But thanks to an Afghan music scholar who was trained in Australia, these students have the opportunity to learn both music and regular subjects. Since 2010, Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, who has a Ph.D. in music from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, has been helping them.

Before the concert began, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim shook hands with all the students on the stage.

As the students started to perform, the atrium grew quiet and you could only hear music. It reminded me of classical Indian or Nepali music—smooth and pleasing to the ears. Everyone seemed to be focusing on one thing at that moment: the stage. It’s true when people say music is a universal language that connects us all.

The youngsters on the stage represented hope for Afghanistan. They served as a perfect example of commitment and passion. Most importantly, they represented hope for young people who are dedicated to making this world a better place.


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Para Karin.