Pictured from left: Desmond Neysmith (on behalf of Aaron P. Dworkin), Ricardo Castro, Ahmad Sarmast, Rosemary Nalden and Armand Dinagienda. (c) Simon Jay Price

Dr Ahmad Sarmast

Afghanistan National Institute of Music – Kabul, Afghanistan

Dr Ahmad Sarmast has brought back music to his country, silenced by the Taliban, by founding the first national music school in Afghanistan.

Historically, music has been a vibrant and important part of Afghan culture, but war and neglect has left students without teachers, teachers without resources, and professional musicians without a context for their art.

Dr. Ahmad Naser Sarmast is a native of Afghanistan and a son of the late well-known Afghan composer, conductor, and musician Ustad Sarmast.

In 2006, while a Research Fellow in Melbourne, Australia, he initiated the Revival of Afghan Music (ROAM) project, recommending the establishment of a dedicated vocational music education entity where Afghan children could receive a general education as well as specialist training in Afghan and Western Classical music.

After two years of planning and negotiations with the Ministry of Education and with support from the international donor community, Dr. Sarmast returned to Afghanistan in April 2008 to lead this project to provide music education for the most disadvantaged children. As fundraising continued, he established the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) by converting the music department of the School of Fine Arts into an independent entity with all the prerequisites of music education including soundproofed rehearsal rooms, high quality instruments, well equipped library and recording studio, and finally the employment of a qualified local and international music faculty.

Since its inauguration in June 2010, ANIM and its students are progressing rapidly and making a tremendous influence on the social and cultural life of Afghanistan. ANIM is continuing to develop and implement its vision, with future plans to replicate its success in the cities of Herat, Mazar-e Sharif, and Jalalabad.

Dr Sarmast is the author of the landmark book, A Survey of the History of Music in Afghanistan. He has received numerous awards including, in March 2013, being named "Person of the Year" by Radio Azadi, RFE/RL's Afghanistan Service.

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