The finale show for the Streets of Afghanistan exhibition couldn’t have a cooler Kabul location than the 3rd Annual Sound Central Festival. Bigger and badder than ever, the alternative music festival has grown substantially each year since founder, Travis Beard launched the first ever Central Asia Rock Festival in 2011.
Travis is a longtime friend, advisor to M2M, and frequent road trip companion to some dodgy places as my photographer-for-hire. He had asked me last fall if we could keep the exhibition in Afghanistan after our series of public exhibitions to set the backdrop and involve more art forms in this years festival. I couldn’t think of a more fitting finale. Sound Central Festival has grown from the initial one day rock festival at Babur Gardens, to a alternative music and art festival spanning four days on two stages with acts from around the world. The festival kicked off with the Women’s Only day – which allowed orphanages and school girls to attend and experience a different sort of concert. Slam poetry, a fashion show, Afghan rap duo, films, and a killer performance by White City, and Ariana Delwari rounded out the indoor activities, along with various artisans in the lobby. Outside was the Streets of Afghanistan exhibition throughout the entrance courtyard, grafitti art with Shamsia, and Mountain2Mountain‘s Bike School with members of the women’s national cycling team.
Once the music kicked off however, we took the three members of the national team inside so they could take part. The crowd was a sea of white headscarves from the schoolgirl’s uniform, and they cheered and clapped throughout the various acts. But when Ru Owen, frontman of Kabul expat band, White City took the stage – they went wild. She welcomed them in Dari and with arms open called out to her Afghan ‘sisters’. Goosebumps ran down my spine at her wide smile that showed her genuine pleasure to take the stage in front of all these young girls, who for most had never been to any concert, much less one like this – a full blown rock concert with a strong female lead. Without further ado, Ru, Travis, and Andreas rocked their world and the girls loved every minute.
photo Ellie Kealy
Ru tweeted after the event, “It may be just a moment, but this makes everything worth it.”
Beyond the Sound Central Festival, White City, and in particular, Travis, has spent years mentoring young Afghan rockers like Kabul Dreams, District Unknown, and many more. Setting up recording studios, finding instruments, and arranging concerts – Afghan rockers are flourishing. One of the latest side projects was a mobile music truck tour to Mazar i Sharif with District Unknown.
Huge props to the entire Sound Central crew that pulls this off so powerfully and proves to the rest of the world that rock does have a place in Afghanistan. 3 more days of the festival ahead…Rock on.