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Afghan Songbook Brings Delight to Afghan Children and Nostalgia to Parents

For many years, Louise Pascale dreamed of the songs she heard as a young volunteer in Afghanistan, songs that she feared had been lost forever. Today Ms. Pascale has partnered with a number of cultural organizations and talented Afghan artists to create a stunning book and melodic CD of songs that have been making expatriate Afghans long for their childhood and their country. 

The songbook project began in 1966 when Ms. Pascale was a United States Peace Corps volunteer living in Kabul. During her service, Ms. Pascale worked with Afghan poets and musicians to create a children’s songbook to be distributed to the local schools. Through the duration of her service, Ms. Pascale traveled to schools in Kabul and taught the children the songs. In 1968 the songbook was published in Afghanistan with illustrations by local children.

Almost four decades later Ms. Pascale was shocked to discover a worn and faded copy of the songbook in her bookcase. Assuming that most of the other songbooks disappeared amidst the years of fighting and dislocations, Ms. Pascale made a commitment to return the songs, now almost completely lost from the culture, back to the children of Afghanistan. 

Ms. Pascale approached Mrs. Shamim Jawad, wife of the Afghanistan Ambassador to the U.S. Said T. Jawad and founder of Ayenda: the Afghan Children Initiative with her project, and immediately received her full support. Mrs Jawad found herself overcome with emotion upon hearing these songs from her childhood, and provided the projects with the funding necessary to further develop the songbook.

In order to realize her artistic vision, Ms. Pascale partnered with Vaheed Kaacemy, a respected Afghan musician from Toronto, Canada. Vaheed recognized the value and need for such a project and was willing to work with Afghan children to record the songs.  He was moved to tears when he first looked over the original songbook, having not thought of the precious compositions for decades. After hours of researching, arranging and rehearsing the songs, Mr. Kaacemy recorded 16 songs, in Farsi, Pushto, Uzbeki and Hazara.  Eight of the songs are from the original songbook, while the remaining were collected or composed by Mr. Kaacemy. Arsalan Lutfi, a talented Afghan graphic designer and President of TriVision Studios created the attractive design for the songbook and coordinated the production of the songbook. 

Qu Qu Qu Barg-e-Chinaar: Children’s Songs from Afghanistan is a sumptuous 24 page songbook accompanied by a 60 minute CD. The songbook contains lyrics of all the songs in Dari, musical notation for each song and delightful illustrations.  Some of the children’s drawings from the original songbook are included as well. 

This project was made possible by two generous funders: National Geographic Society and Ayenda: The Afghan Children Initiative. Grants from National Geographic and Ayenda enabled Ms. Pascale to print 3,000 copies of the songbook .With the effort of Mrs. Jawad and tremendous support from the Department of Defense, the songbooks shipped to Afghanistan last week and are ready to be distributed to Afghan schools in March of 2007, when the Afghan schools re-open after the winter break.

In September,   Mrs. Shamim Jawad arranged for Ms. Pascale to meet Afghanistan’s Minister of Education, Mohammad Haneef Atmar, to discuss a partnership with the Government of Afghanistan to bring these songs back to the hearts of Afghan children. Minister Atmar’s approval was so enthusiastic that Mr. Kaacemy was invited to come to Afghanistan to collect more songs for a second songbook. Mr. Kaacemy was also able to meet with President Hamid Karzai, who gave his full support to the songbook (photo above) and thanked Mr. Kaacemy for using his musical talents to help Afghanistan's children. The possibilities are endless and future songbooks promise new and exciting musical delights.  

For more information or to order the songbook, visit the Troubadour, Inc. website:  www.troubadour.org All proceeds will go to printing more songbooks for Afghan children. 


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