Monday October 15, 2018
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Afghan Orchestra Flourishes Despite Social Issues

Afghanistan and Pakistan have experienced years of terrorist attacks, including massive casualties on both sides of their long shared border.

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Afghanistan
Negin Khpolwak, leader of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, practices on a piano at Afghanistan's National Institute of Music, in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA
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The consequences of Afghanistan’s increasingly deadly war are weighing heaviest on the nation’s civilians, with women bearing the brunt of the violence. The Taliban banned music and girls education, and restricted outdoor activities of women when the group was controlling most of Afghanistan.

But violence and social pressures have not deterred members of the country’s nascent orchestra of mostly young girls from using music to “heal wounds” and promote women’s rights in the strictly conservative Muslim society.

The ensemble, known as Zohra, was founded in 2014 as part of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) in Kabul, where suicide bombings lately have become routine.

Hope and music

Students and trainers are not losing hope and regularly come to the city’s only institute to rehearse and learn new lessons, says Ahmed Naser Sarmast, the director of ANIM and the founder of the orchestra. Zohra is the name of a music goddess in Persian literature, he explained.

The musicologist spoke to VOA while visiting neighboring Pakistan earlier this month with the young ensemble to perform in Islamabad as part of celebrations marking the 99th anniversary of Afghanistan’s Independence Day. Kabul’s embassy in Islamabad organized and arranged for the orchestra’s first visit to Pakistan.

Despite the many challenges in Afghanistan, Sarmast said, student enrollment has consistently grown and more parents are bringing their children to the institute to study music. Around 300 students are studying not only music at the institute but other subjects, including the Quran, he said.

Afghanistan
Members of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, attend a rehearsal at Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, in Kabul. VOA

Advances for women

Negin Khpolwak, the orchestra’s first woman conductor, says Afghanistan has made significant advances in terms of promoting women’s rights in the past 17 years. She says there is a need to sustain the momentum irrespective of rising violence.

“We need to stand up to protect those gains and we need to open the doors for other Afghan girls,” Khpolwak said when asked whether deadly attacks around the country are reversing the gains women have made.

But violence alone is not the only challenge for women and girls, especially those who want to study music, she said.

“When you are going in the street with your instrument to the school and they are saying bad words to you and if you are giving a concert in public they are telling the bad words to you. But we are not caring about it,” Khpolwak said.

Afghanistan
Ahmad Naser Sarmast, head of Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, speaks to members of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

Ethnic groups help each other

Sarmast says that girls and boys in the orchestra come from different Afghan ethnic groups and they help each other when needed.

“It’s hope for the future,” he said.

Ethnic rivalries have been a hallmark of hostilities in Afghanistan and continue to pose a challenge to efforts promoting peace and stability.

“I strongly believe without arts and culture there cannot be security and we are using the soft power of music to make a small contribution to bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan and at the same time using this beautiful, if I can call it a beautiful weapon, to transform our community,” the director said.

Some of the members of the Afghan orchestra were born and brought up in refugee camps in Pakistan, which still hosts around 3 million registered and unregistered Afghan families displaced by years of war, poverty, persecution and drought.

Afghanistan
Members of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, bring instruments to a class before a rehearsal at Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

“We are using the healing power of music to look after the wounds of the Afghan people as well as the Pakistani people. We are here with the message of peace, brotherhood and freedom,” Sarmast said.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have experienced years of terrorist attacks, including massive casualties on both sides of their long shared border. Bilateral relations are marred by mistrust and suspicion.

Also Read: OrchKids- Bringing Jot to Underprivileged Kids Through Music

The countries blame each other for supporting terrorist attacks. Afghans allege that sanctuaries in Pakistan have enabled Taliban insurgents to sustain and expand their violent acts inside Afghanistan. Pakistan rejects the charges.

The Islamist insurgency controls or is attempting to control nearly half of Afghanistan. (VOA)

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YouTube Becomes The Most Used Application For Music: Report

This report also shows the challenges the music community continues to face.

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YouTube
The YouTube Music app is displayed on a mobile phone in Los Angeles. VOA

If you are listening to music, chances are you’re on YouTube.

A music consumer report by the industry’s global body IFPI published Tuesday found that 86 percent of us listen to music through on-demand streaming.

And nearly half that time, 47 percent is spent on YouTube.

Video as a whole accounted for 52 percent of the time we spent streaming music, posing challenges to such subscription services as Spotify and SoundCloud.

YouTube
The content-sharing platform is also adding a tool, thus, allowing creators to add or remove non-skippable advertisements in bulk. Pixabay

But while Spotify’s estimated annual revenue per user was $20 (17.5 euros), YouTube’s was less than a dollar.

The London-based IFPI issued a broader overview in April that found digital sales for the first time making up the majority of global revenues thanks to streaming.

The report published Tuesday looked into where and when we listen to music.

It found that three in four people globally use smartphones, with the rate among 16- to 24-year-olds reaching 94 percent.

The highest levels were recorded in India, where 96 percent of consumers used smartphones for music, including 99 percent of young adults.

YouTube
YouTube music will separate the movies and music section on the platform. Pixabay

But music does not end when we put away our phones, with 86 percent globally also listening to the radio.

Copyright infringement was still a big issue, with unlicensed music accounting for 38 percent of what was consumed around the world.

“This report also shows the challenges the music community continues to face — both in the form of the evolving threat of digital copyright infringement as well as in the failure to achieve fair compensation from some user-upload services,” said IFPI chief Frances Moore.

The report noted that “96% of consumers in China and 96% in India listen to licensed music.”

Also Read: Google Maps Gets A New Update That Lets You Access Music

It did not, however, say how many of those consumers also listened to music that infringed copyrights.

Overall, the average consumer spent 2.5 hours a day listening to music, with the largest share of it consumed while driving, the industry report said. (VOA)