Photographers' Blog

Afghanistan’s symphony

By Omar Sobhani

Usually when I go to shoot for a story, we are faced with a bomb blast, a suicide attack, or some other type of violence here in Afghanistan. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised when I visited Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music. Even though I have lived in Kabul for many years, I had no clue this academy even existed — it is the only of its kind in the whole country.

Foreigners and Afghans teach young Afghans how to play all sorts of instruments, as well as to sing. What struck me most is the opportunity given to women. There are not many opportunities for women in Afghanistan to play or sing music — during the Taliban era (from 1996-2001) music was outright banned and women were basically taken away from public life.

So, being at the school, and seeing young girls learn how to play music, actually gave me some hope about my country and made me think perhaps we can live in peace in the future. This is not the usual feeling I have after an assignment.

(View a slideshow of images from the academy here)

Here’s some background on the Academy, which opened in 2010 (from their website):

The first music school within the Ministry of Education was established in 1973. In the late 1980s, this school merged with the School of Fine Arts and operated until 1992, when civil war consumed Afghanistan. In 2001, the music department within the School of Fine Arts re-opened with a lot of limitations: no rehearsing rooms, trained music teachers, or musical instruments.

Notes from a mariachi journey

By Carlos Jasso

When I found out that mariachi music had been added to the U.N educational and cultural agency, UNESCO’s, intangible cultural heritage list, I decided to find out what the mariachis themselves thought about it. I went to the famous Garibaldi square, known as the “home of the mariachis”. I wanted to capture a sense of the atmosphere and emotion of this place where many Mexicans go to celebrate, to party, to fall in love, to reminisce, all to the background music and lyrics of the mariachis. Another visually interesting scene I wanted to illustrate was the Xochimilco canal where locals and tourists alike hire small boats and are serenaded by mariachis.

6:30am Garibaldi Square

Glasses, bottles of tequila, piles of rubbish and a few drunkards were strewn on the square as the shutters of the cantinas were pulled down. Scattered groups of tight trouser wearing, black mustached, sporting Elvis Presley gelled haircuts, big bellied, silver belt buckled musicians were playing with full enthusiasm to the last party-goers and the street cleaners.

As I crossed the square listening to the mariachi music I saw an elderly man sitting on his trumpet case and leaning on the door of a news paper kiosk. He saw me and the moment I grabbed my camera he looked down.

Signs of hope through music in Iran

For some people, here is the end of the world, but for some who live here, it is paradise.

The Kahrizak Charity Foundation in southern Tehran, is home to hundreds of mentally and physically impaired people who range in age from young and old. In this place, you can feel life and death, joy and woe, and people who love each other. For these people music is the only positive thing.

The first time I went to Kahrizak, I expected to meet people who didn’t know what they wanted in their life and were just waiting for the angel of death to arrive but it was not as I had presumed.

Outspoken South Korean singer taps populace sentiment

On June 13, 2002, when South Korea, Japan and the rest of the world were captivated by the 2002 FIFA World Cup, a 50-tonne U.S. army vehicle crushed two South Korean schoolgirls to death during a drill in Yangju, north of Seoul. The girls, Shin Hyo-soon and Shim Mi-seon, both 14, were on their way to a friend’s birthday party.

Wearing traditional funeral clothes, a protester holds a picture of two South Korean girls recently crushed to death by a U.S. military vehicle, at a rally near U.S. embassy in Seoul December 5, 2002.  REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won

Thousands of South Koreans protested for several months to demand then-U.S. President George Bush apologize directly for the incident and hand over the U.S. soldiers involved to South Korean court.

The soldiers left South Korea after they were acquitted in a U.S. military court in the country in November 2002, which inflamed anti-American sentiment.

Swiss cliche: alphorn festival

A Swiss mountain, Swiss flags thrown into the air and about 120 alphorn players in traditional clothes: Each summer the alp Tracouet in Nendaz, southern Switzerland, is the stage of an alphorn contest and festival -  Swiss folklore the way you might have pictured it.

This year was no exception as the mountains echoed the International alphorn festival once again.

International? For sure! Joseph and Virginia Anderer tell us why in this audio slideshow.

Fiddling around

Fiddler's audio slideshow

Tennessee Old-Time Fiddler’s Championship – audio slideshow

While in Nashville for the CONCACAF qualifying soccer tournament, I had two off days and figured what else are you going to do in Nashville but go to a fiddle contest?