Negin Khpalwak is a 19-year-old musician and conductor from Afghanistan. She leads the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women musicians at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul. The fact that Zohra orchestra exists would’ve been miraculous 15 years ago.
While the Taliban controlled the region music was expressly forbidden. Since they’ve been largely deposed music has found its way back. However, that’s not the case universally, or for women particularly.
Negin Khpalwak learned music in secret. When she told her father what she’d been studying he was cautiously supportive. Other men in her family were not. In fact, Khpalwak was forced to move into a Kabul orphanage becausemale relatives threatened to beat her for appearing on television with the orchestra. Many in the Afghan music school are in the same boat.
The Zohra Orchestra play a mixture of traditional Afghan music and Western classical music. You can watch a partial performance of theirs on this video. Despite public denunciations, the threat of physical violence and even a suicide bombing the orchestra and the National Institute of Music continue unfazed. Here’s Khpalwak:
I will never accept defeat. […] I will continue to play music. I do not feel safe, but when people see me and say, ‘That is Negin Khpalwak’, that gives me energy.
Pray for a fraction of that energy & strength.