Stealth festival to rock Kabul with musical explosion

Fri Sep 30, 2011 7:58pm EDT
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By Emma Graham-Harrison

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghans are used to having their days broken by a burst of gunfire or the boom of an explosion. But the barrage of drumming, bass beats and amped-up guitar solos that will hit the city next week may stop many in their tracks.

Sound Central, a one-day "stealth festival" that organizers hope will draw 1,000 to 2,000 young Afghans, will be the first music festival the country has seen since it plunged into three decades of violence in the late 1970s.

Afghan bands playing music from doom death metal to blues rock will be joined by musicians who have flown in from across Central Asia -- Iran to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

The music will almost certainly be a new experience for most of the audience in a country where people seeking a change from traditional Afghan music tend to listen to western pop or sound-tracks from India's big-hit Bollywood films.

"The real bottom-line aim of this festival is to ignite youth to be interested in modern music," said organizer Travis Beard, who dreamt up the festival four years ago, and has been working on it in earnest for the last two years.

"What we are trying to do is to expose them to new kinds of music so they can get into those styles of music, and also just start playing music. Hopefully we'll get some kids saying 'Hey this is really cool! Dad can I get a drum set?' or 'Mum can I get a guitar'," Beard said.

Beard is an Australian who first came to Afghanistan as a news photographer five years ago, joined a band in Kabul and rediscovered his love of music "after many years away."

As he started to meet Afghan musicians, he got involved in supporting them -- with instruments or a place to practice -- and the festival was inspired by the community they formed.   Continued...

<p>Tears of the Sun, a rock band from Uzbekistan, performs during an underground pre-rock festival concert in Kabul September 27, 2011. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood</p>