Thursday, December 29, 2016

Afghan Women’s Orchestra “Zohra”

Dear friends,


  I am writing to invite you to watch a streaming performance by the Afghan Women's Orchestra "Zohra," who will be performing the closing performance of the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Friday, January 20, 2017 at 5:30 Swiss time, which is 11:30am EST. It will be streaming on


   The closing performance at the Davos Congress Centre is attended by all the participants and attendees of the 2017 conference, which include several thousand world leaders and top business men and women from all around the world. The concert will be  broadcast on international media in over 70 countries. 


  I have had the honor of teaching and leading the Afghan Women's Orchestra "Zohra" this year as the Director of Orchestral Studies at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music. This concert features 31 young ladies from across Afghanistan. They are the very first large performing ensemble of all female musicians EVER in Afghanistan, which is still ranked among the top worst places in the world to be a woman, and where music and musicians are still targeted and suppressed. The orchestra contains both Western and traditional Afghan instruments. 


   The concert will feature 4 parts. The first part will feature small ensemble pieces by traditional Afghan instruments. The next three parts will feature the full orchestra, led by my two conducting students, Zarifa and Negin, and myself. These young ladies are the first female conductors EVER in Afghanistan. It is an important and symbolic gesture for a woman to take a public, leadership role in Afghanistan- and it is one that does not come without risks. All of our young ladies have been very brave and defied the odds against violence and poverty to come to school each day. Zarifa and Negin will lead the orchestra in a wide selection of Afghan music arranged for our unique ensemble.  I will get to conduct the orchestra myself in my own arrangement of the last movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, and a world premiere written for the orchestra by Sadie Harrison. Part of my job in Afghanistan has been to create written arrangements of Afghan folk music (a primarily aural tradition) for various ensembles, to help make sure that this centuries-old musical tradition is never at risk at again. 


  This concert kicks off a European tour, where we will then play concerts and participate in cultural exchanges and workshops in Geneva and Zürich (at the famous Zürich Tonhalle,) and then in Weimar and Berlin. 


  You can find various photos and videos on Facebook leading up to and during the tour by searching the hashtag #Zohratour.  There is also a lot of hype going around via the Associated Press, so you will see us a lot in the news in the coming weeks if you search "Afghan Women's Orchestra Zohra."


   I am also proud to announce that Naxos choose our Toccata Classics album "The Rosegarden of Light" as one of their top albums of 2016. This was last year's  project between the Afghan Women's Orchestra "Zohra," the Ensemble of Traditional Afghan Instruments, and our musical ensemble back in Connecticut, Cuatro Puntos.  With this album, and now again with this historic tour, I am honored to play a part in leading the Afghan Women's Orchestra "Zohra" toward redefining the image of Afghanistan, as well as serving a role in preserving Afghan music and making it available worldwide. 


  We hope you will hear us via the streaming performance at


   Happy holidays!    Kevin Bishop

Director of Orchestral Studies- Afghanistan National Institute of Music