This songbook project began in 1966. Louise Pascale, a United States Peace Corps volunteer lived in Kabul, Afghanistan and worked with Afghan poets and musicians to create a children’s songbook to be distributed to the schools in Kabul. Once she collected the songs, she traveled to schools and taught them to the children and had them draw pictures to go with each song. In 1968 the songbook with the children’s illustrations was published by the Kabul Press.
Many years later, in 2003, Louise found her worn and faded copy of the songbook in her bookcase and realized, due to the turmoil and strife that had afflicted Afghanistan, that most likely her copy of the songbook was the only one left in existence. At that point, she made a commitment to return the songs, now almost completely lost from the culture, back to the children of Afghanistan. It was at that moment that the Songbook Project began.
After contacting hundreds of individuals and organizations, Louise was fortunate to be introduced to a well-known and respected Afghan musician from Toronto, Canada, Vaheed Kaacemy. Vaheed recognized the value and need for such a project and was willing to work with Afghan children to record the songs. After hours of work, researching, arranging and rehearsing the songs, he recorded 16 songs, in Farsi, Pushto, Uzbeki and Hazara. Eight of the songs are from the original songbook. The others were collected and/or composed by Mr. Kaacemy.
The Afghan Children’s Songbook & Literacy project, an official 501 (c )(3) has produced two songbooks, Qu Qu Qu Barg-e-Chinaar and Awsana See Sana along with accompanying Teacher’s Guides and distributed over 50,000 songbooks and 7500 Teacher’s Guides across Afghanistan. The next project is to create a book of traditional children’s folktales which are also rapidly disappearing from the culture’s memory.