Ahmad Naser Sarmast
|Ahmad Naser Sarmast|
Moscow State Conservatory
|Parent(s)||Ustad Salim Sarmast|
International Music Council Musical Rights Award|
Radio Azadi Person of the Year (2013)
David Chow Humanitarian Award
Government of Afghanistan Education Award
Ahmad Naser Sarmast is an Afghan-Australian ethnomusicologist. He is the founder and director of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music.
Early life and education
Sarmast graduated from an Afghan music school in 1981. He later left Afghanistan in the 1990s due to the ongoing Afghan civil war. Sarmast earned a master's degree in musicology in 1993 from Moscow State Conservatory. He was given asylum in Australia in 1994. In 2005, Sarmast became the first Afghan to earn a PhD in music, earning his PhD from Monash University.
Founding the Afghan National Institute of Music
Sarmast returned to Afghanistan to help revive music in his native country after the defeat of the Taliban. Under the invitation of the Afghan Ministry of Education, Sarmast returned with a plan to restore Afghan music traditions that had been suppressed under years of Taliban rule. In 2006, Sarmast had outlined his proposal in the Revival of Afghan Music (ROAM), wanting to open a dedicated music school with a curriculum combining both Afghan and Western music. Sarmast returned to Afghanistan in 2008. He formally opened the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) in Kabul on June 20, 2010.
Sarmast originally planned to offer music education exclusively to underprivileged children, orphans and street kids. The Afghan Ministry of Education wanted him to open the school to talented students, so in the end an agreement was reached for a fifty-fifty split. The underprivileged children at ANIM receive a stipend of $30 per month to allow them to focus on school.
In 2013, ANIM's Afghan Youth Orchestra toured the United States, including performances at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. In 2015, the first Afghan female conductor, Negin Khpolwak, held her first concert with an all-female ensemble.
Victim of Taliban attack
Sarmast was injured in a suicide attack by the Taliban on the Centre d'Enseignement Français en Afghanistan on Dec 11, 2014. Following the attack, the Taliban released a statement accusing Sarmast of corrupting the youth of Afghanistan.
Immediately after the attack, Sarmast lost consciousness and lost hearing in both ears, as both of his eardrums were perforated, resulting in him becoming completely deaf. He was rushed to a hospital in Kabul for emergency surgery. Later, he returned to Australia, where surgeons removed eleven pieces of shrapnel from the back of his head, restoring partial hearing to one of his ears. Sarmast stills suffers from PTSD as a result of the attack.
Sarmast has plans to build a concert hall and girl's dormitory at the current institute. Sarmast is also hoping to build music schools in other cities in Afghanistan, primarily Mazar-i-Sharif, Jalalabad and Herat. He also dreams of eventually setting up a Symphony Orchestra of Afghanistan.
- A Survey of the History of Music in Afghanistan: Special Reference to Art Music from c. 1000 A.D. VDM Verlag. 2009. ISBN 978-3639131505.
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