TODAY   |  February 08, 2013

Once banned, Afghan kids play music

Children from Afghanistan are getting a chance to play music for the first time together after it was banned by the Taliban. They took center stage at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., to fulfill a lifelong dream of making music without restrictions.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we're back at 8:39. we all know that music has the power to bring people together in a lot of different ways. this morning, nbc's andrea mitchell has the story of extraordinary young musicians from a place you might not expect. andrea, good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, matt. they come from a nation gripped by war and terrorism. boys and girls rarely play together and music was banned for years by the taliban . now with help from the state department , the world bank and other supporters, these young afghan children are enjoying a rare moment of harmony. 13-year-old leila zhari has been waiting two years for this moment, the chance to perform on the world stage, while breaking another taliban taboo, girls and boys playing music together. which do you like better, the drums or the trumpet? which is more fun?

>> the drums.

>> reporter: the drums? she's one of 48 young musicians who attend the only music school in afghanistan . where music was strictly banned under taliban rule. many in the group are orphaned by war. some even lived on the streets. today they're nearly 7,000 miles from home, bringing traditional sound from their homeland. the tambor, meksed with western harmonies they're also learning. organizers hope the young musicians can learn about america and america can learn about afghanistan . music is making a comeback.

>> the future of afghanistan , where the children of the country are, the future and that hope is not dead.

>> reporter: how does it feel to be playing your music here in america ? he excels on an afghan instrument, the rubar, also met with the secretary of state, once a musician himself.

>> when i was your age, i played in a rock band .

>> reporter: their conductor, william harvey , juilliard trained violinist, has spent the last three years in kabul.

>> i've taking masterpieces and added afghan melodys and folk songs .

>> reporter: the group, rehearsing alongside a maryland youth orchestra, has done some improvisation of its own.

>> we were playing "stairway to heaven" which we were both familiar with. it was fun.

>> coming here as been a fulfillment of a long time dream for us. the greatest reward is the smiles on these children's faces.

>> reporter: next week after a lot of practice, you know the old joke, they're actually going to play at carnegie hall . matt?

>> andrea mitchell , nice story. thank