The name alone – 1,200 Miles From Kabul – has become hugely popular with many musicians of Afghan origin, particularly Afghan ghararas, as well as in Europe and the US. While musical practice isn’t in short supply in Afghanistan, it’s increasingly difficult to find training that’s equal to the requirements of Western audiences and is affordable. One of the first Afghan gharars to move to Europe was Afghani composer Samiullah Bayati. Now he has launched Afghan Musicians In Exile (AME), a unique project founded to provide a safe environment where Afghan musicians from all walks of life can create the sound they are capable of.
“We started a project called Afghans in Exile, to run a music school so people in the US and Europe can see Afghans in Kabul are doing music that doesn’t include talking, poetry, politics and religion,” explains Samiullah Bayati. In 2016 Bayati founded an Afghan orchestra, one that he said had joined with Western orchestras.
I wanted to create something where people don’t come to war…or hostility. They come to music Samiullah Bayati
While the orchestra consisted of traditional instruments, that instrumentation can help explain the aims of the Afghan Musicians In Exile’s (AME) first project, a music school that’s attracting just as many people from Afghanistan as from abroad.
Organised by Bayati as a collaboration with a group of music professionals, MEIA will be the first sustainable musical school in Afghanistan since the civil war of the 1990s. It will teach all manner of instruments and musicians from Afghanistan and a wide range of international genres, including rock, hip-hop, and folk music. MEIA will also embrace a language barrier, by combining a combination of communication and music theory, providing a practical introduction to playing music.
Proximity to a world of experiences is also a crucial part of MEIA’s mission. “I wanted to create something where people don’t come to war…or hostility,” adds Bayati. “They come to music. I do hope to bring Afghan culture to the rest of the world.” A partnership with Carnegie Hall will involve musicians from the legendary conservatory in the US teaching in MEIA in Kabul.
It seems that right now, where many in Afghanistan are looking for a new way forward, MEIA is precisely the source of hope for many more. “It is amazing to see other people with a common vision for the future of Afghanistan”, says Bayati. “It’s good to know that I’m not alone.”
MEIA music school is set to open in Kabul in September 2019
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