Rock ‘n Roll Kabul-Style

Jalalabad, Afghanistan — Art finds a way. When the first Sarajevo Film Festival opened in November of 1995, the city had already been under siege for more than three years, but fifteen thousand people showed up anyway, to stand with Sarajevo’s artists. In the same spirit of solidarity and defiance, though under vastly different conditions, Kabul will host its first regional rock music festival over the next three weeks.

Sound Central: The Central Asian Modern Music Festival will be a “stealth festival,” with events announced at the last minute through text messages, facebook notifications and emails to a trusted network of Afghan and international music fans. An eclectic lineup of bands from Afghanistan, the Central Asian states, Pakistan and Iran –countries where musicians face censorship, violence and exile– are expected to perform in Kabul.

Festival organizers say that recent Taliban attacks against high-profile diplomatic and security targets in the city have only reinforced their determination to open the festival anyway.

“Kabul is still dangerous, but what we’re doing with the Sound Central music festival is in support of those rock musicians, youth, fans, and guests who must continue to live on despite all the risks,” says festival co-producer [and UN Dispatch contributor] Daniel Gerstle.  “They move on with life, seeking some picture of what a future peaceful Afghanistan could be whether there’s violence or not, so why should we who are working with them give up because of yet another bad day in a long scroll of bad days they’ve endured? With this fest we’re turning up the volume and celebrating life instead of being dragged down yet again by the war.”

Tandem events will be held in New York, giving those unable to attend the Kabul shows opportunities to show solidarity with Afghanistan and Central Asia’s musicians.

The party will kick off in New York tomorrow, September 16, at 8pm at The Hive in Brooklyn. Proceeds will go to future events to support Central Asian musicians. Here are the details:


An event for Freedom of Expression and Music



The Hive NYC, 20 Cook Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211



0930pm – Faisal Mustafa (Acrassicauda, Iraq), Austin Dacey (Impossible Music Sessions), and others share stories about what it’s like throwing rock shows in places where they have been illegal or dangerous like Tehran, Baghdad, and Kabul. Other guest speakers from the region expected. (Any guests are encouraged to tell stories about underground club experiences!)

0900pm – Welcome, Videos from Afghanistan & Central Asia

0800pm – Doors open

We are producing Afghanistan’s first rock music festival in Kabul, Afghanistan, and we are having opening night in New York City to rally global support for musicians at risk in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

We’re decorating a Williamsburg Brooklyn arts community space to simulate the feel of an illegal rock club as in the Taliban’s Afghanistan or the Ayatollah’s Tehran. With a tough forbidding world outside, inside will be like a Central Asian speakeasy complete with rock and post punk music, and guests from the region.

For ticket questions, email