Music from Afghanistan a Hit Online A collection of music from Afghanistan climbs to No. 12 on iTunes' World Music bestseller charts. Adam Gouttierre and Chris Becherer are two MBA students who recorded traditional music during a trip to Afghanistan and distributed it online.
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Music from Afghanistan a Hit Online

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Music from Afghanistan a Hit Online

Music from Afghanistan a Hit Online

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Now, here's a school project.

Mr. CHRIS BECHERER (MBA Student, Berkeley): Chris Becherer, I am a second year MBA student here at Berkeley.

Mr. ADAM GOUTTIERRE (MBA Student, Berkeley): My name's Adam Gouttierre and I'm also a second year business student.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: Adam Gouttierre and Chris Becherer are studying for Master's Degrees at the Hoss Business School at UC Berkeley. For a project there Adam and Chris wanted to try something that would feel smart and do some good. They got this idea: record an album of traditional Afghan music, sell it online at places like iTunes, and send the proceeds back to Afghanistan.

(Soundbite of Afghani music)

CHADWICK: Probably Adam got the idea at first because he already knew a lot about Afghan culture for a kid who grew up in Omaha. His dad ran The Center for Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska.

Mr. GOUTTIERRE: During the Soviet Wars during the 80's there was a lot of refugee activity in and out of Omaha, and so it became a place where a lot of his former students and friends moved to Nebraska, so it's not like I grew up listening to it, but it's, there's, you know, there was instruments in our home and then, you know, every once in awhile when we had parties at our house or just friends over, the music would kind of pop up.

CHADWICK: They had a small grant from the Hoss School. They had their credit cards. They landed in Kabul and then figured out what to do.

Mr. GOUTTIERRE: So we had a contact on there through my family's contacts and he was really, still remained involved in the arts industry. And he connected us with this great rubaabist, who you'll hear on the music; he's fantastic.

Mr. BECHERER: And a rubaab is a longneck, stringed instrument.

Mr. GOUTTIERRE: Right. It's kind of--think of a sitar that you play like a guitar. And it's a little more--it's less twangy than a sitar, it's a little more bassey.

CHADWICK: Chris Becherer again.

Mr. BECHERER: Everyone we spoke to is extremely enthusiastic about helping us. And it just seemed to snowball so quickly; almost from day one. I mean, going I had nothing, by day three we had a band formed. And not just any hodge-podge musicians, these are some of the more accomplished musicians at Kabul.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BECHERER: When we first approached them, they assumed that we wanted, kind of more pop Afghan music, and we definitely didn't want that, right? We wanted, actually, the old school stuff; the traditional folk music. Because we thought that was also the music that was being threatened the most. And you know, with so many wars and tragedies, there's been a huge immigration of their, their musicians.

CHADWICK: That man playing the rubaab, the instrument that sounds like a sitar, he became their musical guide.

Mr. BECHERER: His name is Eustad Hussein(ph). Eustad is like master, master in his craft. Eustad Hussein. When he started off with his rubaab and then, kind of controlled his other percussionists--those guys were like, you know, the most, well-oiled machine you've ever seen. And they had such soul. And...

Mr. GOUTTIERRE: And a tremendous amount of respect for Eustad.


Mr. GOUTTIERRE: The way he kind of commanded the room, and that they--a lot of times, we could tell that they were improvising a lot of what they were doing. But they were all kind of feeding off him.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: It got more complicated when Adam and Chris tried to find a singer. They wanted a female vocalist, but in traditional Afghan culture women do not sing in public.

(Soundbite of female vocalist)

Mr. BECHERER: (Unintelligible) song is track number two, which is: She is Coming with Hesitation, and it's farsi is Baa Shak Miyaaya. After we explained to her what we wanted to do with these recordings and that all the proceeds from the album and from her singing would go back to music education in her hometown in Kabul, she agreed to join on. And so, she was risking a lot to make sure her craft could produce something good for the people in her country.

CHADWICK: And this is what happened, the Afghan Music Project went to number 12 in the world music category of iTunes. That's not bad for a couple of first-time producers; two MBA students who managed both to do some good and learn some lessons.

Mr. GOUTTIERRE: Distribution of content is getting easier, and more and more people have the ability to get their voice heard.

Mr. BECHERER: We'd love to figure out how to do this, you know, fulltime and just travel around the world and go to places where music's been suppressed and help those communities get their message--their culture back, out to the public. It's an enabler. It's bringing people together, too, which is really neat, and so that's definitely a space that I want to be involved with.

CHADWICK: Adam Gouttierre and Chris Becherer, MBA students whose recordings of Afghan folk music have found a new audience, online. You can see and hear more about The Afghan Music Project at our Web site,

(Soundbite of music)

And there's more to come on DAY TO DAY.

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