Afghanistan’s first rock festival since 1975 is going on now.

SOUND CENTRAL IS BILLED as a “stealth festival” – the specific locations and times are secret. The bands featured include groups from Iran, Uzbekistan, and Kazhakstan, along with a variety of Afghan bands playing rock, blues, and death metal.

One of those groups is Kabul Dreams, who claim to be (and I’ve no reason to disagree with them) the only rock and roll group from Afghanistan. Watch their music video below.

I work on a college campus in the States, where it seems like everyone you ask has a friend of a friend who’s in a band, and nearly every bar has live music by local bands at least one night of the week. And it’s easy to take that for granted. But these guys have to create and perform without easy access to venues, instruments, or fans — not even fans necessarily, but just someone to play for. In addition to security concerns in case there are any large crowds.

Because while traditional music and instruments are somewhat common in Afghanistan, modern music is much harder to come by.

The festival is organized in part by Daniel Gerstle, manager of The Hive, and Travis Beard, musician in White City, a band also performing at the festival. The goal of the festival is:

“…to ignite youth to be interested in modern music,” said the organiser, Travis Beard, who dreamed up the festival four years ago and has been working on it in earnest for the last two years.

“What we are trying to do is to expose them to new kinds of music so they can get into those styles of music, and also just start playing music. Hopefully we’ll get some kids saying: ‘Hey this is really cool! Dad, can I get a drum set?’ or ‘Mum, can I get a guitar?’,” Beard said. (The Guardian)

There is, of course, a war still going on in Kabul – a kink in any music festival’s organizational process.

From The Atlantic:

Their promo materials play up the war connection –“You’re used to the sound of bombs. Now get used to the sound of metal,” you hear the Afghan death metal group District Unknown growl at the start of their video. But, at the same time, it’s clear that these artists see rock music as a way to escape from war, even of finding some kind of normalcy or apoliticism in an environment inevitably viewed, in the West, through the prism of the “conflict zone.”

The festival is a global one; it started in New York with the “Illegal Rock Bunker Party.” There was a weeklong musician’s workshop in September with performances in Kabul at the Institute Francais Afghanistan.

But it’s the main event the organizers hope will bring in the big audience: they’re looking at around 2,000. It doesn’t seem like a big number, but in a country where music was illegal for years under the Taliban, it’s small but significant. The specific locations and times for the main event are being kept secret for security issues – word of mouth is the only way to get details.

KABUL DREAMS (Afghan indie rock)
WHITE PAGE (Afghan hard rock)
MORCHA (Afghan blues rock)
EKLEKTIKA (Kazakh emotional guitar rock)
MARAL (Iranian progressive)
MASSA CYGENT (Australian indie)
POOR RICH BOYS (Pakistani indie rock)
TEARS OF THE SUN (Uzbeki funk)
WHITE CITY (UK, Australia, Sweden, Afghanistan-based punk rock)

Kabul Closing Night presented by Sound Studies
When: October 9
Where: Institute Francais Afghanistan

Global Closing Night
When: October 21
Where: New York. Specific location TBA

Global Post-Festival Celebration
When: November 2011. Specific date TBA
Where: Los Angeles. Specific location TBA

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