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Afghans Embrace Ravel and Vivaldi


dsc07122reThe Afghan Youth Orchestra will perform a free concert at the New England Conservatory’s Brown Hall on Wednesday, February 13, at 6:00 PM as the final stop on the orchestra’s first international tour that has taken it to the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall, along with a special performance at the U.S. Department of State which is underwriting the visit.

The program reflects the diversity of musical styles taught at the three-year-old Afghanistan National Institute of Music, of which the orchestra is a part. Western instruments will combine with Afghan ones to perform special arrangements of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Ravel’s Bolero along with several Afghan pieces drawn from its centuries-old amalgam of Indian, Persian, and Turkic musical traditions.

The orchestra will be joined by joined by NEC students in some of the pieces. The tour’s organizers see that musician-to-musician exchange as important as the concerts themselves. For most members of the AYO, this is their first travel outside of Afghanistan. For most of the young American musicians, this is their first exposure to the music of Central Asia.

“The Institute teaches some 150 young people, about half orphans and street hawkers. … About 35 of the students are female, important in a country where women face obstacles to education. The young people study both Western and Afghan instruments…and music theory from both cultures. Many of the Western instruments are donated, and the World Bank provides financial support. Tuition is free,” according to in a recent New York Times article.

Boston audiences will have a rare opportunity to hear performances on traditional Afghan stringed instruments – the rubab, sitar, sarod, dilruba, tanbur, and ghichak – as well as the tabla drum. Performing with the students are several of their teachers who are respected as ustads—masters—of these instruments.

Admission to the concert is free.


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1 Comment [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. This sounds like it was a very exciting program. However, I believe that “Afghani” refers to currency and “Afghan” refers to people. Some people take offense to being called “Afghani.” I respectfully request that the title be edited. Thank you.

    Comment by Paul — March 9, 2013 at 10:18 am

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