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    Afghan musicians enthrall Washington audience

    WASHINGTON (PAN): A visiting group of young Afghan musicians has completed its Washington-leg of the US tour, making a historic enthralling performance at a jam-packed prestigious Kennedy Center, besides entertaining audience at the Capitol Hill and the World Bank since arriving here on Sunday.

    Secretary of State John Kerry, who listened to a traditional Afghan arrangement by members of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM), beckoned the students as ambassadors of peace from their country.

    Deputy Education Minister Asif Nang told Pajhwok Afghan News that Afghans believed music had a future in their country based on a glorious past when music remained a central part of Afghan culture, customs, and religion.

    "Young Afghan girls and boys may look forward to a future in which life as a professional musician is viable and profitable,” he said.

    Nang commented ANIM reflected Afghanistan's commitments to autonomy and decentralization throughout the educational system.

    Addressing the full-house auditorium and the prestigious Kennedy Center, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns remarked the ensembles of the Afghan National Institute of Music were a shining example of how the art could lift and give hope to a human spirit.

    “Afghanistan’s rich musical traditions were once silenced by war and Taliban rule. But when democracy returned to Afghanistan, Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, who had left his homeland because of the violence, saw a chance to bring that tradition back to his country, founding what is today Afghanistan’s sole music academy,” he said.

    Burns said Sarmast did not just bring instruments back to life, he restored hope for a future where Afghans celebrate their rich, diverse, cultural heritage, and through that, restore their national pride and unity.

    Afghan Ambassador to the US, Eklil Ahmad Hakimi, said ANIM’s success illustrated the remarkable progress occurring in Afghanistan, particularly in the education sector. It showed an amazing talent could come from Afghanistan’s young men and women if given the right opportunities, he said.

    “I truly admire the dedication of these young artists and their ability to overcome adversity. I strongly believe that subjects like music and art are crucial components of a well-balanced education that will enable Afghanistan’s youth to become tomorrow’s agents of peace and change,” he said.

    The group, involving members of the Afghan Youth Orchestra and other smaller ensembles, performed at the Kennedy Center on Thursday evening.

    The free Millennium Stage performance to a full Concert Hall featured the entire Afghan Youth Orchestra as well as members of the Maryland Youth Chamber Orchestra where they performed different arrangements of both classical western and traditional Afghan pieces

    On their first night in Washington, the Afghan Embassy and local Afghan community organised a dinner for the students at Dunyah Banquet Hall in Alexandria. The dinner allowed local Afghans and Afghan-Americans to connect with the students and show their support for ANIM.

    Smaller ensembles performed at the World Bank headquarters and at the Italian Embassy in connection with the Aschiana Foundation which supports some of the ANIM students.

    The next stop on the ANIM tour is New York City where the students with perform at Carnegie Hall on February 12. They will conclude the tour with a residency and concert at Boston’s New England Conservatory.

    ljk/ma



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