The Big Issue : Edition 477
34 THEBIGISSUE6–19FEB2015 LUCY SALT MEETS THE AUSTRALIAN BEHIND AFGHANISTAN’S ALTERNATIVE MUSIC SCENE. Martyr of Metal EMBLAZONED ACROSS TRAVIS Beard’s black T-shirt are the words ‘Fuck you: I’m from Frankston’. But on Facebook, his current place of residence isn’t the outer Melbourne suburb; it’s Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. This is the guy dubbed Afghanistan’s godfather of rock? After a brief visit to the war- torn country in 2001 for a photojournalism assignment, Beard, now 39, became fixated on returning. He found volunteer work with the NGO International News on Afghanistan and moved to Kabul in 2006. Making music was not initially on his agenda but, rather, a way to relieve the tension of living in a fortified city. “You wanted to get outside the compound wall, you wanted to have some fun [whether] that meant you got on your motorcycle, rocked out with your band, or defaced public property with a spray can. It gave you something to do,” says Beard. More than ‘being a bunch of hooligans’, Beard’s projects also aimed to engage Afghanistan’s youth, who make up 60% of the population. During his eight years in Kabul, Beard ran graffiti workshops, co-founded Afghanistan’s first skateboarding school, joined punk rock band White City, formed an experimental three-piece called Pit Panther Party and mentored District Unknown, Afghanistan’s first heavy metal band. Sound Central, his proudest achievement, was Afghanistan’s first ever alternative music and arts festival. Held annually between 2011 and 2013, it was the first music festival that the country had seen in 30 years, after all non-traditional music was banned under hardline Taliban rule.