Welcoming Speeches

Opening speeches from His Excellence Prof. Dr. Abdul Rahman Ashraf, ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Republik Afghanistan in Berlin, Dr. Heinrich Kreft, Commissioner for German Communications and Dialogue between Cultures, and the presenter/author Roger Willemsen at the launch of the Safar project in 2012.

S.E. Prof. Dr. Abdul Rahman Ashraf

Afghanistan, the heart of Asia, the crossroads of culture, the Silk Road and music

Afghan is a multi-ethnic state, and its music encompasses an enormous variety of music and musical instruments, dating from the days of antiquity, through the middle ages up to the present day. Kabul was always a city of music, a musical capital with heart and soul. Master musicians and instrument makers come from Kharabat. Even in times of emigration and flight, music remained diverse in Afghanistan. It was a means of reaching agreement, it embodied the hopes and the persistence of all ethnic groups in the country.Our children have made great steps; they have brought new life into Afghanistan’s musical development.

As the ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, I hope that agreement and peace, harmony and unity can reign in our land just as they do in the realm of music.

Prof. Dr. Abdul Rahman Ashraf is the ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Berlin.

Ambassador Dr. Heinrich Kreft

Afghanistan is a land about which much has been written and said – yet the media tells only a small part of the story.
Afghanistan was for a long time renowned for its diversity and unique music tradition, a tradition and culture which however, under the regime of the Taliban, suffered considerably and which in part was almost completely destroyed. Much knowledge about the history and development of Afghanistan has been lost. But today, there is renewed interest in Afghan national identity. And, not coincidentally, Afghanistan is Germany’s most important cultural partner, with cultural support  of almost 6.5m euros in the last 15 years.

I welcome the fact that the work of master musicians from the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in the rejuvenation of Afghan music is being supported by a significant contribution from Germany. Thanks to this support, this cultural heritage can be revived and made accessible. The Safar project is a special part of this support not only because it contributes to the preservation of music, but also because it maps out a joint music journey in which citizens of Germany and Afghanistan can both participate.

Projects such as these can only deepen and strengthen the mutual undestanding between Afghanistan and Germany. What better form of communication is there than music? To quote E.T. A. Hoffman, "Where speech stops, music begins".

I am very pleased that, by supporting Safar, the Foreign Office is able to help preserve this music and at the same time make it accessible for a wide audience, and I thank all involved for their engagement.

Dr. Heinrich Kreft is Commissioner for German Communications and Dialogue between Cultures.

Roger Willemsen

’The celebration of beauty is part of a new beginning’

The richness of Afghan music is beyond comparison. One finds traces of the Persian-Arabian world, court music, ecstatic dances, the rhythm-driven, hunting scenes of the Nuristani, the heerful song of the Uzbeks, the choral singing of the warrior, the shepherd songs of the nomads which sound like cries for help.

And yet this music is under pressure. Music was censored by the Soviet occupiers, music sources were destroyed by the Taliban, many musicians fled to Pakistan and Iran, and from there many moved on to Europe, Canada and the United States. Many celebrated Afghan musicians now live in exile; any returnees often live in unenviable circumstances.

From a western perspective, it can be difficult to understand the importance of this beautiful music in Afghanistan, how deep it reaches, how profound the cultural knowledge it contains, how widespread the desire to compose, to sing and to perform it.

When war, occupation, and religious authorities regulate the arts, the celebration of beauty is often a form of resistance. The only way to preserve artistic forms is to make them tangible and accessible, and to recognise them as valuable, endangered cultural heritage. Therefore a project like Safar has an importance that extends far beyond the musical.

I wish you success and my sincere congratulations.

Roger Willemsen

The presenter and author Roger Willemsen is patron of the Afghan Women's Association and Honorary Professor of Literature at the Humboldt University in Berlin. His book “Afghanische Reise" was published in 2005.