09 September 2011
Afghanistan's stealth rock festival
Kabul Dreams, photo by Travis Beard
Afghanistan's first rock music festival is being conducted like an urban guerrilla campaign. With the time and location of the main concert event kept undisclosed until 24 hours prior to showtime, the hope is that local extremists won't see it coming.
But sometime in late September or early October, a stage somewhere in Kabul will be rocked by an explosion of jubilantly distorted guitar, a celebration of the blossoming music scene in Afghanistan and across the region: Sound Central: The Central Asian Modern Music Festival.
In addition to Afghan metal (District Unknown), indie (Kabul Dreams), and hard rock (White Page), the festival boasts Kazakh guitar rock (Eklektika), Uzbek funk (Tears of the Sun), Pakistani indie (Poor Rich Boys), and Maral, the Iranian singer whom I had the privilege of working with in the first Impossible Music Session in 2010. Week-long, invitation-only workshops for musicians in Kabul will include a percussion class taught by Brian Viglioni, of Nine Inch Nails and The Dresden Dolls.
Sound Central was created by Travis Beard, a Kabul-based journalist and guitarist for the ex-pat band White City. It is being produced by Daniel Gerstle, a former humanitarian aid worker who now runs Helo Media in Brooklyn. Sponsors include the US Embassy, Institut Francais Afghanistan, and Paiste percussion, among others.
As a prelude to the main event, opening night on 15 September at the Institut Francais in Kabul, featuring the Kabul Dreams, will be echoed by a "global opening night" at The Hive NYC in Brooklyn on 16 September. The Ethical Ear will be there with bells on, saluting everyone who is contributing to this historic achievement.
Turn it up in Central Asia!