First Afghan music festival in over 30 years opens under-the-radar

03.10.11 Words by: Charlie Jones

On Friday, Sound Central, the first music festival in Kabul since the late 70s, opened. Showcasing local music from metal to punk to blues, as well as pulling in bands from around central Asia, the festival hopes to draw 1,000-2,000 music fans to secret locations around the Afghan capital. The first gig, played by Uzbek funk band Tears Of The Sun, took place in a concrete bunker somewhere in Kabul, according to Reuters.

Calling itself “the world’s first stealth festival,” the locations are kept secret to out-fox “radicals who threaten or harass musicians and modernists”. Events are announced over text or social networks to the trusted few, a necessary tactic in a deeply conservative country scarred by three decades of violence and Islamic fundamentalism. As the website says, with heroic understatement, “This is not your average rock music festival.”

One of the supporters of the festival was the advocacy group Impossible Music Sessions, who protect musicians at risk around the world. Their spokesperson Austin Dacey told the New Yorker “As much as it is fun, music is also a human right, under Article 19 of the universal declaration of human rights, which provides for freedom of opinion and expression. It’s a human right under the rights to free association, freedom of assembly, and the right to participate in a culture,” he said. Sound Central “is a beautiful expression of that.”

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