Winter adventure on Afghanistan's ski slopes By Ramin Anwari
"Bamiyan certainly has the potential, as it has had throughout its long and rich history, to become a favourite tourist destination," says Amir Foladi, who works with the Aga Khan Foundation to promote tourism in the country.
Ski Afghanistan: A Backcountry Guide to Bamyan & Band-e-Amir
The Bamyan Ecotourism Programme, supported by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Information and Culture, the Bamyan provincial government, the Aga Khan Development Network and New Zealand’s Aid Programme, is therefore developing sustainable tourism in Bamyan to help preserve and develop the history and culture of the region, to provide employment and to give local people the ability to improve their living standards. Ski Afghanistan is published as part of the Bamyan Ecotourism Programme.
The push to make Bamiyan a skiing destination started in 2010, when the Geneva-based Aga Khan Foundation sponsored two Americans to write a guidebook. It has also trained locals to ski and hired internationally certified ski guides to take tourists into the mountains.
AKF co-organizes meeting on the preservation of Bamyan Valley’s cultural landscape and archeological remains
Traditional dancing at the site of the Buddha statues in Bamyan. Senior government officials and international experts are in Bamyan today for a first of its kind meeting on how to best preserve Bamyan Valley’s cultural landscape and archeological remains. The two-day meeting is organized by the Ministry of Information and Culture, the Governor’s Office, UNESCO and the Aga Khan Foundation.
Old masters of traditional Afghan music meet renowned German pop musicians
Our perception of Afghanistan focuses on war, conflict and terror. However, Afghanistan was long known for its cultural richness - and famous for its music: Music, which was banned during the time of the Taliban regime, yet, the knowledge of which has survived alongside the old masters. Since 2008 some of these old masters have been working at the Afghan National Institute of Music (ANIM) and the Aga Khan Music Initiative (AKMI) in Kabul to impart these rich old traditions to younger generations.
However, despite the efforts of the ANIM and AKMI, the musical heritage of Afghanistan is in danger. So far, not many young artists are capable of playing the diverse Afghan traditional music in a way compliant with the high standards of the old masters.
For the project "Safar - Afghanistan Meets Germany" - following an invitation from the Liszt University of Music Weimar, Germany - a group of five Afghan master musicians, including Ustad Gholam Hossein and Ustad Amruddin, and accompanied by two young Afghan musicians, will be visiting Germany from June 23 - July, 13, 2012 with a fascinating approach to musical exchange.
The project itself aims at increasing cultural understanding between Afghanistan and Germany, while also providing insight into, and new perspectives towards one's own culture. Accordingly, cultural relations and ties between Germany and Afghanistan will be strengthened. In cooperation with three renowned jazz and pop musicians, a communicative and brisk musical journey will be undertaken, transcending all potential language-barriers. The results of this cooperation will be presented in concerts in Weimar, Rudolstadt, Bonn and Berlin and broadcasts on the radio.
As the very existence of traditional Afghan music is threatened of disappearing, the musicians will also be recorded professionally and their educational work will be documented. The recording sessions will be held July, 2nd- 5th 2012 in the recording studio of the Liszt University of Music in Weimar and later made available to the public in international music archives. Workshops with students will be also held.
Media coverage and film documentation of the concerts will be translated into Dari and presented in an exposition in Kabul, as well as on Afghan television (RTA).
For three weeks, master musicians from Kabul were in Germany to introduce their music to Western audiences. They also improvised with three German musicians as part of the Safar project.
"Transcultural Music Studies," might sound very academic but it is actually the name of a series of creative projects conducted at the Liszt School of Music in Weimar. The aim is to conduct research into local musical traditions and then present the results in live workshops and concerts in Germany.
Safar, which means journey, is the result of such a project. It is a journey that for Philip Küppers began in January when he was at the Afghanistan National Institute for Music. He looked for musicians who were prepared to set up an ensemble, go to Germany and present their music to a Western audience.
Under the Taliban's regime, it was forbidden to play and listen to music in Afghanistan. Some musicians had their fingers chopped off. Instruments were hung from the gallows to act as a deterrent. Videos and cassettes were destroyed. The area of Kabul where musicians had lived before was completely laid to waste.
Forced into exile
Ustads (masters) of Afghan music who had survived decades of war were forced into exile - in Pakistan, Europe or the US.
Ustad Amruddin is in his 80s and still going strong
Ten years after the Taliban were ousted there are very few musicians left in Afghanistan who have a firm grasp of the country's traditional music, but some Ustads have returned to change this.
Music can be studied once again at the Afghanistan National Institute for Music, which is state-funded, as well as at Kabul University and the Aga Khan Music Initiative.
Traditional music in Afghanistan has to compete against Bollywood and American pop but there is an attempt to maintain Afghanistan's cultural heritage.
Influenced by all corners
Located on the crossroads between many trade routes, Afghanistan's music tradition was influenced by Arabs, Persians, Indians, Mongolians, Chinese and many others passing through. Thus Afghan music features a mix of Persian melodies, Arab scales, Indian compositional principles as well as sounds from tribes such as the Pashtuns or Tajiks and the instruments used range from Indian tablas to long-necked lutes.
German audiences were able to get an insight into Afghanistan's musical richness at five concerts - one of which took place at Deutsche Welle in Bonn. They centred on the sounds of the rubab, Afghanistan's national instrument. Made from the trunk of a mulberry tree, it has three melody strings tuned in fourths that are plucked with a plectrum and numerous sympathetic strings to intensify the sound.
Rubab player Ustad Ghulam Hussain and Ustad Amruddin (at least 85 years old) impressed the crowds with their traditional pieces and improvisations, as did the youngest player of the project –-14-year-old Salim. For Ustads the transmission of musical knowledge is as important as playing itself.
German and Afghan musicians improvising together
Later, the Afghan musicians were joined on stage by three German musicians - Jörg Holdinghausen on bass, Arne Jansen on guitar and Jan Burkamp on the drums, who provided a perfect rhythmic background.
Author: Matthias Klaus / act
Editor: Arun Chowdhury
New AKDN diplomatic representative start work in Afghanistan
By Mirwais Adeel - 14 Mar 2013, 11:56 am
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The new Diplomatic Representative of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), in Afghanistan, Mrs. Nurjehan Mawani, presented her credentials to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Mrs. Mawani succeeds Mr. Aly Mawji who represented AKDN in Afghanistan for more than a decade.
For the past eight years, Mrs. Mawani has served as the AKDN Diplomatic Representative in the Kyrgyz Republic where she has guided the work of AKDN agencies during the country’s transition period, working in close partnership with the Government, Parliament and institutions of civil society. Mrs. Mawani will remain accredited to the Kyrgyz Republic at present.
Prior to her engagement with the AKDN, Nurjehan Mawani had a long and distinguished career with the Canadian Public Service. She served as the Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of Canada’s largest tribunal, the Immigration and Refugee Board. Subsequently, she served as Commissioner of the Public Service Commission of Canada, an independent institution responsible for safeguarding the integrity and non-partisanship of the public service on behalf of the Canadian Parliament.
In recognition of her contributions to public service and to her profession, Mrs. Mawani has received numerous awards, among them, the Order of Canada and the UNIFEM Canada Award for her outstanding contribution to the advancement of women. In 2012, in recognition of her contributions to Canada, Mrs. Mawani was honoured with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
The Aga Khan Development Network began working in Afghanistan in the late 1990s, providing food aid and a range of livelihood and support services to Afghans both in country as well as refugees who had fled their homes as a result of the on-going conflict. At the January 2002 Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan, His Highness the Aga Khan made a pledge of USD $75 million to support international reconstruction efforts. This pledge marked the transition of AKDN’s intervention in Afghanistan from humanitarian relief to multi-sector integrated development, and the beginning of a formal partnership between AKDN and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. In June 2008, at the Afghanistan Conference in France, His Highness the Aga Khan pledged a further USD $100 million in support of AKDN’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan.
Through partnerships with the Afghan government, significant investments into Afghan companies, and national and regional development programmes in partnership with other international organisations and donors, AKDN has channeled more than USD $900 million toward Afghanistan’s economic, social, and cultural reconstruction. AKDN programmes encompass large-scale rural development; health, education, governance and civil society programmes, including Afghanistan’s National Solidarity Programme; the rehabilitation of historic neighborhoods in Kabul and Herat; the management and operations of a pediatric hospital and two provincial hospitals; an extensive network of financial and micro finance services; a rapidly growing mobile phone network with innovative investments in corporate social responsibility; and, a five-star hotel in Kabul.
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