The Sound Central festival showcased local Afghan bands alongside fellow musicians from Iran, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and even Australia, offering a welcome distraction for music-hungry young people in a country that has been in the throes of violence.
The concert served up a 6 hour musical feast of blues, indie, electronica and death metal to hundreds of fans – many of whom had never heard live music before.
The date and venue was kept a closely guarded secret until the last moment to ward off the chance of an insurgent attack. Despite the secrecy, the concert attracted more than 450 music lovers and scores more trickled in from street markets outside. A few elderly men with turbans and long beards appeared taken aback, but not entirely disapproving.
The festival was celebrated keeping in mind religious values – no alcohol was served and kebabs provided for snacks - microphones were turned off twice in the late afternoon to allow the call to prayer to sound out uninterrupted from nearby mosques.
"We heard about the music festival from the radio, and when my friend asked whether we should go, I said 'Why not?'," said Lauria, a 19-year-old university student dressed in a bright headscarf, jeans and strappy sandals. "This is great. I hope we can see more of it in Kabul,"
The crowd's enthusiasm persuaded even security staff and police to join in, nodding and moving their legs in time with the beat. Ahmad Shah dressed in the traditional shalwar kameez and waistcoat travelled all the way from Kandahar, a southern city embroiled in violence: “Where I live, there's nothing like this. I heard about it so I had to come,”
Guitarist Nikita Makapenko of Uzbek band Tears of the Sun said: "Rock and roll will change the world, and we hope it will change Afghanistan too. This is historic, and it's just the beginning."
The festival is organized by Travis Beard who says the bottom line is to ignite the interest of the youth in modern music and had been working on the project for the last two years.
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