Afghanistan’s first all female orchestra ‘Zohra’ became the winner of Freemuse Award 2017


With an exceptional courage and dedication, Zohra, the first and only all women orchestra of Afghanistan is breaking the norms and has turned out to be the role model of many deprived women as well as for any Afghan, welcoming the return of their music.

All women in the orchestra are the students at the National Institute of Music (ANIM) and the first women in their families, community and country to learn music in over 30 years. Zohra is the winner of the Freemuse Award 2017.

With exceptional courage and dedication these young women are breaking new ground and have become important role models for any Afghan welcoming the return of music and the rights to exercise and take part in cultural life, – Freemuse Award Motivation.

In the last decades of the 20th century, Afghanistan’s musical scene suffered enormously for the war and for the policies of Taliban that banned music entirely. Moved by the critical state of music, musicians, music education and women, Dr Ahmad Sarmast, a visionary and the first Afghan to obtain a doctorate in music initiated a project to revive and promote musical education in Afghanistan.

Zohra is a small miracle; by giving the award to Zohra, Freemuse is also acknowledging the groundbreaking work of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music founded by Dr Ahmad Sarmast, says Freemuse Executive Director Ole Reitov.


These girls have faced death threats and accusations that they are dishonoring their families by daring to perform. Zohra is an ensemble of 35 young musicians aged 13 to 20, some orphans or from poor families. Led by Negina Khpalwak, the group has performed at the World Economic Forum, 2017 in Davos.

This women’s orchestra of Afghanistan is charting a new destiny for themselves. We must applaud the courageous spirits and efforts of team Zohra to revive and taking Afghan music to the world stage once again.

The Afghan Womens Orchestra "Zohra" at Davos 2017

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