Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Nicola Blackwood MP and British Council Welcome the New Afghanistan National Institute of Music to the Centrepiece Event of their Visit to Britain

On 27th June, from 4-6 pm in the Jubilee Room of the Houses of Parliament, visitors from the new Afghanistan National Institute of Music will perform for MPs and members of the public. The event is hosted by Nicola Blackwood MP, Member for Oxford West and Abingdon, by kind permission of the Speaker.

In its first year in Kabul, the Institute has set aside fifty per cent of its new pupil spaces each year for war orphans and street children, who receive bursaries to cover their musical education.

The Afghanistan National Institute of Music is founded and directed by Dr Ahmad Sarmast, son of Ustad Salim Sarmast, a well-known late Afghan composer and conductor. It exists, under the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan's jurisdiction, to promote both western classical and traditional Afghan music, and is at the moment the only conservatory in Afghanistan.

Professor John Baily, leading British expert on the music of Afghanistan, will offer historical context on the destruction of the Kabul musicians' quarter, in 1992, and the subsequent journey of many traditional Afghan musicians to Peshawar; and he himself will perform with the visitors.

The parliamentary concert will be followed by a charity dinner in the ballroom of the Lansdowne Club, at which a collection will be taken to fund the Institute's bursaries. Travel costs for the Afghanistan National Institute of Music are met by the British Council, and the costs of their accommodation in London by a private donor.

Miss Robin Ryczek, 'cello instructor at the Institute (who has formerly toured with Jethro Tull) will perform several original arrangements of traditional Afghan melodies for 'cello.

Paul Cheater, senior master of Summer Fields School in Oxford, assisted in devising the Institute's curriculum based on the UK national curriculum and music grade examinations, and will share the story of his involvement.

Shaharzad Akbar, the first female Afghan student at the University of Oxford, will describe her own visits to the Institute.

Cathy Graham, director of music for the British Council, will describe links between Britain and the new Kabul conservatory.

In the remainder of their British tour, the members of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music will perform in the Chapel of Trinity College, Oxford (12.30, Sunday the 26th) and for the British Afghan Women's Society and Afghanaid (7 pm, Wednesday the 29th). They will also meet with the heads of music at Harrow and Dulwich College, the head of music at the South Bank Centre, the deputy principals of the Royal Academy of Music, musical staff from the Barbican and Guildhall School of Music, and the principal and director of music from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.

Together with other lasting institutional collaborations with the UK, the Institute's staff will discuss a gap-year programme in which British school-leavers and music graduates may spend time assisting with music instruction in Kabul.

The British magazine Classical Music covered the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in its 20 November, 2010 issue (offprints available on request). The visit is organised by that article's author, journalist Pádraig Belton, who concluded his last interview by inviting the Institute to visit Britain.

Dr Sarmast is happy to give interviews in Dari, Pashto or English. The organisers are able to give interviews in Urdu and Hindi. Footage and rushes are available if helpful from previous BBC and ABC Australia visits to Kabul.