In 2014, a young trumpeter called Meena went to the office of ANIM’s director, Dr Sarmast. Meena wanted something. She wanted something that had never existed before in Afghanistan.
Meena asked Dr Sarmast if she and her friends could form an all-girl ensemble. They wanted to play music on their own, and develop their own style of playing and repertoire. Since one of ANIM’s great focuses is girls’ education, Dr Sarmast was thrilled by the idea.
So the Afghan Women’s Orchestra was born. It is the first ever all – female ensemble in the history of Afghanistan.
The Afghan Women’s Orchestra began with fewer than ten players, but now over 30 young Afghan women play together. They rehearse twice a week, with more intensive rehearsals before concerts. Our girls play in the orchestra from Grade 6. The older students help out the younger ones, and they also choose their own repertoire. They play Afghan and Western music and are conducted by specialist teachers and students.
The existence of this orchestra, along with the pride and joy you see on the girls’ faces as they play together, shows how much things have changed in Afghanistan. It also shows just what can be achieved when a young girl walks into an office, clearly asks for what she wants, and is the given the opportunity.
Ensemble Zohra is featured on an album titled ""The Rosegarden of Light," released via the UK label Toccata Classics and distributed internationally by the well-known Naxos label. The recordings of their music have been played across England on BBC Radio as well as the official radio station of the London Symphony, across the United States on National Public Radio as well as many local stations, and across all of Europe via special podcasts. They have received overwhelmingly positive reviews on websites, in magazines, and on the air all over the world and in many languages. This shows how the idea of one young girl can not only transform the lives of many of her friends, but also transform the international perception of her country and bring increased awareness to women's rights issues.