VOA Special English
Afghan Musical Group Working to Overcome Violence, Social Pressure


    The war in Afghanistan is having the greatest effect on the country’s civilians.

    Afghan women have often been the target of the violence. Years ago, the Taliban leadership banned music and education for girls. The Taliban also restricted outdoor activities when it was controlling much of Afghanistan.

    Today, some young Afghans are using music to spread a message of hope and peace.

    The young musicians are part of a new orchestra, known as Zohra. The group was created in 2014 as part of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul.

    Ahmed Naser Sarmast is the institute’s director and founder of the orchestra. The name Zohra comes from a music goddess in Persian literature, he notes.

    Most of the orchestra’s members are young girls. They are using the power of music to help ease tensions and work in support of women's rights.

    Negin Khpolwak is Zohra’s first female conductor. She told VOA that Afghanistan has taken steps to support women’s rights over the past 17 years.

    She said, “I am hopeful because we need to stand up and we need to open the door for other Afghan girls…and fight for their rights."

    Sarmast noted that, year after year, the number of students in Zohra has grown. He said that more parents are bringing their children to the institute to study music.

    "I strongly believe without arts and culture there cannot be security and we are using the soft power of music to make a small contribution to bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan and at the same time using this beautiful weapon to transform our community."

    The orchestra has traveled overseas and performed in many countries. Recently, the group visited neighboring Pakistan for the first time.

    Some of Zohra’s members were born and raised in refugee camps in the country. Pakistan is still home to millions of Afghan refugees.

    "We strongly believe in the healing power of music. We are using the healing power of music to look after the wounds of the Afghan people as well as the Pakistani people. We are here with the message of peace, brotherhood and freedom."

    I’m Jonathan Evans.

    Ayaz Gul reported this story for VOANews. Jonathan Evans adapted his report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    orchestra n. a group of musicians who play usually classical music together and who are led by a conductor

    conductor n. a person who stands in front of people while they sing or play musical instruments and directs their performance

    contribution n. something that is given to help a person or cause

    transform – v. to change