Kabul's school of rock offers lessons for life
Founded two years ago in a living room, Kabul's 'school of rock' has grown into a busy youth club based at an arts centre with a recording studio and 35 students mastering singing, the guitar and drums.world Updated: Nov 18, 2013 15:51 IST
With a sense of showmanship that would have impressed Freddie Mercury, Salahdeen, aged seven, struts his way through a passionate rendition of "We Will Rock You" all part of the learning process at Kabul's "school of rock".
Founded two years ago in a living room in the Afghan capital, the school has grown into a busy youth club based at an arts centre with a recording studio and 35 students mastering singing, the guitar and drums.
The walls are covered in murals of local life and musical heroes such US duo The White Stripes, while the garden outside is decorated with graffiti paintings including one of a woman struggling with her veil.
"This is the only place in Afghanistan to learn rock music," Omar Paiman, 18, a spiky-haired fan of Linkin Park, said.
"I am really interested in guitar, and I have had lessons for seven months. My family didn't want me being a singer or a musician because Afghan people don't have a good opinion of rock music."
"Some people threaten to kill artists. My dad is a construction engineer and wanted me to follow him," Omar added as he strummed through a few chords of the Bob Dylan classic "Knockin' On Heaven's Door".
The Taliban outlawed almost all music during their 1996-2001 rule of Kabul, and Afghanistan remains a conservative Muslim country with widespread suspicion of Western influences.
But rock school founder Humayun Zadran said that the hunger among young people for a blast of electric guitar became clear when teenagers clamoured to get involved with jam sessions that he held at his home with friends.
"Kids were asking 'how do you play this riff?' and 'how do you hold this note?'. It got bigger and bigger and we thought about opening a proper rock school.
"We started with a couple of guitars, half a drum kit and seven students."
Zadran says that finding kit, funds and teachers to keep the project afloat is a constant battle.
"Getting instruments in this country is impossible," he said. "We have either carried them in from outside, or friends who bought a guitar in the US have left it here as a donation."
"You can't just go out and buy a set of strings or pick up a guitar," he said.