Zohra, the winner of the Freemuse Award 2017, is the first and only all women orchestra in Afghanistan. They are students at the National Institute of Music (ANIM) and the first women in their families, community and country to learn music in over 30 years.
“With exceptional courage and dedication these young women are breaking new ground and have become important role models for any Afghan welcoming the return of music and the rights to exercise and take part in cultural life.” – Freemuse Award Motivation
Afghanistan’s musical scene suffered enormously in the last decades of the 20th century due to war, exile of musicians, and the draconian policies of the Taliban banning music entirely. Additionally, the extremist policies of the Taliban in regards to women’s rights dealt a huge blow to the education, employment and social rights of Afghan girls and women.
Moved by the critical state of music, musicians, music education and women in his native country, Dr Ahmad Sarmast, a visionary and the first Afghan to obtain a doctorate in music, initiated a groundbreaking project to revive and promote musical education in Afghanistan, which led to the establishing of ANIM in 2010.
“Zohra is a small miracle,” says Freemuse Executive Director Ole Reitov. “By giving the award to Zohra, Freemuse is also acknowledging the ground-breaking work of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music founded by Dr Ahmad Sarmast.”
One of ANIM’s primary commitments is to empower girls through music. Today 65 out of 200 students are girls aged between 14 to 20 years.
The Freemuse Award is given to an individual or an organisation that “has worked for freedom of musical expression in a remarkable way”.
The Freemuse Award will be presented at a concert with Zohra in Geneva on Wednesday 25 January 2017 by Freemuse co-founder Marie Korpe.
Photo above: Conductor Negin Khpalwak. Photo below: Zohra – The Afghan Women’s Orchestra
Afghan Women’s Orchestra Zohra – Shad Kon Jan-e-Man (2:29)
Published on youtube.com on 17 April 2016.
The Afghan Women’s Orchestra Zohra at Davos 2017 (19:44)
Published on youtube.com on 20 January 2017.
Recent articles about Zohra
» Reuters – 20 January 2017:
Afghan orchestra puts women’s rights center stage at Davos
» Al-Bawaba – 20 January 2017:
Striking a chord: Meet Afghanistan’s first female orchestra
» Dawn | AFP – 19 January 2017:
Afghanistan’s first all-girl orchestra ready to perform at Davos
» Daily Sabah – 19 January 2017:
Afghanistan’s first all-girl orchestra steps onto world stage
Previous Freemuse Award winners
2016: Levon Volski, Belarus
2014: The City of Harstad, Norway
2013: Festival au Désert, Mali
2011: Ramy Essam, Egypt
2010: Mahsa Vahdat, Iran, and Ferhat Tunç, Turkey
2009: Pete Seeger, USA
2008: Tiken Jah Fakoly, Côte d’Ivoire
More from Freemuse
» Freemuse’s Afghanistan report from 2001:
“Can you stop the birds singing?” – The censorship of music in Afghanistan
» Freemuse – 26 May 2016:
Afghanistan: Kandahar authorities ban broadcast of songs by women
» Freemuse – 26 May 2016:
Afghanistan: Musicologist and Taliban bomb victim returns to Kabul
» Freemuse – 13 December 2014:
Afghanistan: Theatre performance attacked by suicide bomber
» Search more Freemuse articles about
Afghanistan | Women