In 2001, when the Taliban was toppled from power, Afghanistan’s musical culture was left in ruins. Music gradually came back onto the streets and into people’s lives, but by 2009 there was still no orchestra capable of playing the Afghan national anthem.
In that year, renowned musicologist Dr Ahmad Sarmast returned from exile in Australia, and the Ministry of Education charged him with establishing the first National Institute of Music (ANIM). Based in what had been Kabul’s School of Fine Arts, ANIM got off to a slow start: the building was a ruin and there were virtually no instruments.
Dr Sarmast’s Music School follows ANIM’s progress over two years as, gradually, the school is repaired and made habitable. Fine instruments – many donated by foreign sponsors – flood in, and the school’s 150 pupils gradually learn to play to professional standards.