Gary: Eighteen-year-old Milad is one of the most talented students here at the Afghan National Institute of Music. His teacher is Allegra Boggess, a classically trained musician from Denver, Colorado.
Allegra Boggess: He’s interested in developing himself as a pianist first but he doesn’t want to live abroad. He wants to come back and teach.
Gary: This is the only music school in Afghanistan. And professional musicians are almost non-existent in the country. That is because from 1996 until 2001, Afghanistan was ruled by the Taliban, an extremist group which outlawed music. They destroyed instruments and tore apart the music school. The Taliban threatened to imprison or hurt anyone caught playing or teaching music.
Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, the school’s founder and a musician himself, fled the country for several years.
Dr. Ahmad Sarmast: It was a cultural genocide against the people of Afghanistan, depriving them from their musical identity.
Milad: When I enrolled in this school, my friends told me don’t choose music because it doesn’t have any future in Afghanistan. I didn’t hear them. And I just hear myself, my heart, that’s why still I am here.
Gary: Milad is among 140 students learning both Afghan and Western music, plus getting a complete education.
In a society where boys and girls are usually separated and there is often fighting between ethic groups, this band brings them together.
Allegra: The students, they have fallen in love with what this place represents and music. They’ll never give up.
Gary: The real test comes next year as U.S. troops begin pulling out. Afghans fear that their country will get less attention and less funding for programs like this. And there is worry that the Taliban will come back and take control again. But Boggess believes the school will continue to thrive.
Allegra: It’s important that the Afghans do this for themselves because they do love music. And we can just help them set up the infrastructure to make it successful.
Gary: After thirty years of war, the hope is that this is the sound of an Afghanistan beginning to heal.
Gary Hamilton, Channel One News.