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Travka rocking out at Sound Central – Reuters/Ahmad Masood
Read the Reuters article on Sound Central
Ru: On the stage there was rap, rock, funk, metal, doom and lots of sweat. In the audience there was slam-dancing, break-dancing, screams, cheers, yells, applause and sweat. Backstage there was stress, tears, fights, hugs, hi-jinx and, yes, sweat.
On a hot, October Saturday in the historic gardens of Babur in Kabul, Sound Central festival brought hundreds of Afghan youths together to hear music from 4 Afghan and 4 international rock bands.
White City played after the incredible funk-rock of Tears of the Sun, who we met in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. It was great to see them again and certainly a challenge to follow after they’d stirred up the audience with relentless energy.
It’s fair to say not everyone got our brand of experimental rock, but old favourites like ‘Last Plan’ and ‘Spoons’ went down well as well as new songs like ‘Silver Hyena’ and ‘Pistol in the Hood’.
There were challenges, of course. From sound problems for frustrated guitarists to the mic being live with electricity for sore-mouthed singers, the bands struggled through glitches. But they all performed up a storm.
White Page get the Band of the Day award for getting the audience going – their fans really gave everything they had in a frenzy of yelling and dancing.
But my personal favourite was District Unknown, the festival headliners. By the time they played, some people had gone home, but a core of musicians and devotees stayed on. Speaking as a musician, this band are the most interesting to listen to, by far. There’s no verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure. There’s no call-and-response singalong bit. Just dark sounds, tribal rhythms and, for me, some of the most emotional, edge-of-the-seat soundscapes I’ve experienced in a live concert.
The band have found it hard to find a niche in Kabul. Doom-death metal is difficult music anywhere in the world, but in Afghanistan, where even plain rock is considered subversive, they have a challenge no-one could envy. They do it because that’s who they are. And you have to admire that, even if you don’t like the sound.
Other notable mentions, of course, are Eklektika – a 5-piece from Kazakhstan, of whom only 2 could make it. So they quickly recruited a temporary bassist and turned themselves into a 3 piece! A fantastic live band ranging from funky-disco metal to experimental.
Then there’s the irrepressible Kabul Dreams, the totally improvised Izzy and the Pit Panther Puppet Government (featuring the boys of White City) and Moorcha from Herat. DJs Massa Cygnet and City Power deserve a note of thanks too.
And finally, congratulations to our very own, Travka, who had the idea and saw it through.
Right now we’re all too exhausted to think about next time, but, watch this space folks, ’cause it’s sure to happen again.
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