2011.01.19: January 19, 2011: RPCV Louise Pascale's songbook restores kids' music to Afghan schools

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Afghanistan: Peace Corps Afghanistan: Peace Corps Afghanistan: Newest Stories: 2011.01.19: January 19, 2011: RPCV Louise Pascale's songbook restores kids' music to Afghan schools

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RPCV Louise Pascale's songbook restores kids' music to Afghan schools

RPCV Louise Pascale's songbook restores kids' music to Afghan schools

The project began in 1968 when Peace Corps volunteer Pascale decided to create a songbook for children in Kabul. "I had the kids illustrate the songs with my trusty box of crayons," she said. "I had the book published and kind of forgot about it." When media accounts of the Taliban banning music and destroying books made news in 2003, Pascale's memory was jogged. "I realized they were destroying art and culture," she said. "At about the same moment, I came across my songbook and I literally thought, Oh my God, this may be the only book left that holds these 16 children's songs. They could vanish from the country.' " It took seven years, but Pascale recently released an updated edition of the book, "Qu Qu Qu Barg-e-Chinaar: Children's Songs from Afghanistan" with the help of Vaheed Kaacemy, an Afghan musician in Toronto. The book, Pascale said, is being distributed in schools and orphanages in 13 Afghan provinces thanks to local organizations. Last year, Pascale returned to Afghanistan to see firsthand how the project was going. "The books are really treasured," she said. "They're one of the only books that children have in a school. And people are using them not only to remember the songs and honor their musical culture, but as a reading text."

RPCV Louise Pascale's songbook restores kids' music to Afghan schools

Local woman's songbook restores kids' music to Afghan schools

By Bob Young

Wednesday, January 19, 2011 - Updated 3 weeks ago

Caption: JOYFUL CHORUS: A group of Afghan children welcome Louise Pascale on her return trip to Afghanistan. While a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1960s, Pascale compiled a book of children's songs.

Louise Pascale admitted she had no clue what she was getting into when she decided to reprint a book of children's songs she put together in the 1960s while working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Afghanistan. Today - 25,000 copies and thousands of smiles later - she's thrilled she did it.

"It was one of those small ideas that grew beyond what I imagined it would ever be when I started it," Pascale said by phone from Lesley University, where she's an associate professor of music.

Pascale's effort led to her founding and directing the Afghan Children's Songbook Project, an experience she'll discuss Friday night at the Commander's Mansion in Watertown as part of the Revels Salon Series. A tale of perseverance in the face of oppression and censorship by the Taliban, the project began in 1968 when Peace Corps volunteer Pascale decided to create a songbook for children in Kabul.

"I had the kids illustrate the songs with my trusty box of crayons," she said. "I had the book published and kind of forgot about it."

When media accounts of the Taliban banning music and destroying books made news in 2003, Pascale's memory was jogged.

"I realized they were destroying art and culture," she said. "At about the same moment, I came across my songbook and I literally thought, Oh my God, this may be the only book left that holds these 16 children's songs. They could vanish from the country.' "

It took seven years, but Pascale recently released an updated edition of the book, "Qu Qu Qu Barg-e-Chinaar: Children's Songs from Afghanistan" with the help of Vaheed Kaacemy, an Afghan musician in Toronto.

The book, Pascale said, is being distributed in schools and orphanages in 13 Afghan provinces thanks to local organizations.

Last year, Pascale returned to Afghanistan to see firsthand how the project was going.

"The books are really treasured," she said. "They're one of the only books that children have in a school. And people are using them not only to remember the songs and honor their musical culture, but as a reading text."

That visit prodded Pascale to create a teacher's guide.

"The teachers there have so little training themselves," she said. "If they had a little more guidance about how to use the songs, they could really use them to teach reading. I'm also raising funds to put a little soft notebook and two pencils with every songbook because the children have no paper and pencils."

Many Afghan residents told Pascale how appreciative they were of her efforts and how important it was to them to have their culture - and music - restored.

"Many of us know how the arts hold identity," she said. "They hold culture. So to remove that is profound. The Taliban literally burned instruments, destroyed tape recorders and ripped the tapes out of them. There was nothing allowed. So it was exciting to go back and see the kids singing all the songs. I thought, My God, they're singing again.' "

At the end of the visit, Pascale left 250 songbooks at a village kindergarten and headed to a small airport in northern Afghanistan. She had to pass a security checkpoint on the way that was manned by a soldier armed with a machine gun.

"He said to me, I'm not going to inspect your luggage because you're doing something for the children of Afghanistan,' " she said. "The only way he could thank me was to not inspect my luggage. It was very moving to me."



Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: January, 2011; Peace Corps Afghanistan; Directory of Afghanistan RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Afghanistan RPCVs; Music





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