Rocking out in Afghanistan

On September 15th, 2011, I was having a bad day.  My friends and I were spending a long frustrating day looking for an art show.  And we were having no luck finding it. 


During our time here, I’ve become quite intrigued with native Afghan art.  Afghan artists range from artsy-crafty kind of things to the breathtakingly beautiful and daringly innovative. 

Examples of this artistic finesse include that of “Akram”, an artist from Herat who uses only earth to paint with.  Afghan’s soil is so rich with minerals, which he could create both realistic and surrealistic portraits that symbolize Afghanistan with the minerals that occur naturally in the soil.  Lapis Lazuli provides the deep blue, iron provides red, chromite provides deep black, copper provides rich greens, etc..




Another form of art that is fascinating is calligraphy-based art using Arabic script.  These are most often Quranic verses, which take the form of beautiful scenes, ranging from the abstract to the cleverly concrete. 




We’d explored as many of the art galleries and talked to as many artists as we could; today’s “mission” was to find a travelling student gallery, which proved to be travelling too fast for us to catch, evidently.

 To make things worse, I was suffering from a sinus infection, which had migrated to my lower jaw, and had pressurized my back left molar, causing it to split into three pieces.  The insistently throbbing pain and the constant, near state of overdose of Tylenol and Ibuprofen I was on caused me to be short and snappish.  I was desirous of nothing more than to find this damned art show so we could go home. 

Friend Nawab, while making sympathetic noises, suggested that perhaps the student art show we were looking for may be in the “Bagh-e Babur” or “Babur Gardens”, which is a place we always intended on visiting, but had never found the time.  I reluctantly agreed with him, and when we arrived, it appeared as if our bad day was going to get worse.

First, there was a crowd there, which was unusual for this time of the week and day.  So finding a parking spot was an adventure.  After finding an illegal spot to park, we went to the entryway, where there was a long line, and extra security.  And they refused to let us bring a camera in, which forced us to walk back to the car, and put the cameras back in it. (Which is why we have no pictures of this historic event.)

Then we paid our entry fee, after again waiting in line.  I was just about angry at this time. But as soon as we passed through the gate, my anger melted away and my pain was forgotten.  For, serendipitously, we found ourselves in Bagh-e Babur on the same day as “Sound Central” which is the first public rock concert in modern Afghan history.  The location of the concert was secret; only announced at the last minute, so this was definitely a “Forrest Gump” moment (yet again).

We cheerfully listened as the music started; we were humored, that the normally orderly, polite and compliant young Afghans who were present needed coaching from the Western Rock Musicians that were there in how to be an enthusiastic audience.  They were instructed to get as close to the stage as they could, make noise and jump around, instead of standing respectfully quietly and relatively distant.  Nawab and I looked at each other and smiled at this.  The Western acts were interspersed with enthusiastic and slightly uneven quality Afghan acts, but for us, we knew that the spirit of youthful rebellion that accompanies rock music is something that Afghanistan is sorely missing. 

We listened for a while until our relative middle age (and my infected and burst tooth) allowed, and then went for a peaceful and refreshing walk in the gloriously rebuilt Bagh-e Babur.  I was impressed at how well USAID and the Agha Khan Foundation has rebuilt this place. 

I was reminded of this lovely place, and wonderful time when I stumbled upon this news article, talking about the Second Annual Sound Central on October 4, 2012.  I am sorry to have missed it this year, but look forward to possibly participating in the future.



About hotmilkforbreakfast

I am a researcher, a writer, a former soldier, an academic and a lifelong learner. All text and pictures are copyrighted and are not to be used without express permission of the author.
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3 Responses to Rocking out in Afghanistan

  1. Pingback: Rocking out in Afghanistan | hotmilkforbreakfast

  2. thepoliblog says:

    There is a new Skype-based linkage between contemporary artists in Afghanistan and artists in a Maryland suburb of Washington, DC. The link is

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