Sep 12, 2023

Sparrows of Kabul

With Sparrows of Kabul the Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival presents a unique music, spoken word and multimedia performance covering the arc of the West's involvement in Afghanistan through the eyes of poet, songster, and Australian diplomat Fred Smith.   It is Fred’s firsthand account of working as a diplomat in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2021, and his finely observed snapshots of a harsh, sad, and funny reality. While there he wrote songs about his experience and put on regular concerts at the base in Tarin Kowt.  Returning to Australia, he recorded these songs for the  album Dust of Uruzgan, which received rave reviews, comparing him to great Australian balladeers Eric Bogle, Don Walker and John Schumann.

He is accompanied by a terrific band of Hawke’s Bay musicians including Tiffany Anderson (vocals and violin), Matiu Whiting (bass), Anton Wuts (keys and sax) and Dave O'Hanlon (drums).

Featuring his stunning photography, and songs that have been recognised as amongst the finest ballad writing in Australian music.  These are interspersed with personal anecdotes delivered with a wry humour that engages the audience from the start and brings them into the world that Fred Smith lived so deeply.

The concert begins with songs from Fred’s acclaimed Dust of Uruzgan album which draw on his experiences working alongside Australian soldiers in southern Afghanistan. The story culminates when Fred returned to Kabul in 2020 where he found himself working from Kabul International Airport (KIA) during the dramatic fall of Kabul following which, thousands were evacuated, many of whom are now living in Australia and New Zealand. Fred was in contact with many New Zealand families during that time as he worked to get them out of Afghanistan.

This is work offers an opportunity to grieve the Afghanistan mission, but also to welcome this new wave of migrants. The effect is powerful: through humour and song, audience members are gently coaxed out of their comfort zones and transported into a deep empathy for both our soldiers and for the Afghan people. Overall, Sparrows of Kabul offers a fascinating and compelling account of the Fred’s experience in Afghanistan, beginning in the fields of Uruzgan province and culminating with the fall of Kabul and the evacuation of Kabul Airport.

Despite the subject matter, Sparrows of Kabul has been described as “an extraordinary, wonderful and heart-uplifting concert.”

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