Tragic events at Kabul music school

Tragic events at Kabul music school


norman lebrecht

March 06, 2015

Cathy Graham of the British Council has reported for us in the past on attempts to bring music back to Afghan children. Her latest communication is particularly salutary:


Dear colleagues and friends,


I’m writing to let you know about the showing of a film by Polly Watkins about Dr Ahmad Sarmast and the Afghanistan National Institute of Music.  Many of you will remember the group of students from the school who were in London a year ago, and who performed at the South Bank Centre’s Alchemy Festival, and many of you will already know about the inspirational work of ANIM.


The film is called Dr Ahmad’s Music School, and there will be a free screening in the Kamram Djam Lecture Theatreat SOAS (, on Monday 16th March, starting at 8.15pm.  I enclose a flyer.

afghan cellist

The film showing has been partly triggered by a very sad event.  On 11th December 2014 Dr Sarmast was seriously injured in a bomb attack on the French Institute in Kabul, where children from the Lycée Français were performing a play, with music provided by some of ANIM’s students.  None of the children was physically injured.  Dr Sarmast, however, was sitting in front of the suicide bomber.  He sustained shrapnel wounds to the head and loss of hearing, though he is making a good recovery and his hearing is returning.  In an email of 11th January 2015 he wrote:


In spite of everything, I am more resolved than ever to continue in the important work of making sure music, arts, and culture are available to all Afghan children and youth.  It is ever more clear to me the importance of education, and especially music education, in our society to combat extremism and give hope to vulnerable children.


I hope you will be able to join Professor John Baily (Afghanistan Music Unit, Goldsmiths) for this event.


With best wishes



  • Neil van der Linden says:

    That is very sad. I have visited the music school and the atmosphere is wonderful. So the more as Mr Sarmast proactively promotes participation of girls for whom he arranges special compensations for expenses etc. The mood was very natural there inside.

  • Peter Lovett says:

    When I read of people like Dr Sarmast I am truely humbled by the sacrifice that some people will endure and the risks they will run to bring light into some very dark corners. I have on my bookshelf a book written by a lady who has taught in that school on two visits to Kabul and she describes the huge risks that he runs. Let us hope he makes a full recovery.