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Afghanistan’s first female conductor

For many years, the Taliban banned music and the education of girls in Afghanistan – and although many women still find themselves restricted, one 17-year-old has become the country’s first female conductor.

Kabul is a noisy place with helicopters, sirens, and heavy traffic. But walking into a building in one of the city’s quieter neighbourhoods, I’m welcomed by quite a different sound.

Boys and girls are playing the piano, cello and flute as well as traditional Afghan stringed instruments such as the rubab and sarod. This is the Afghanistan National Institute of Music – the only school of its kind in the country.

The female students have just finished their first concert. Their male colleagues were watching and are now milling around, playing and chatting before heading home at the end of a big day.

What was so special about this concert – apart from the fact that it was an all-female ensemble playing music to a big audience in the middle of violence-ridden Kabul – was that it was led by the country’s very first female conductor, 17-year-old Negin Khpolwak who is also a student here.]

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