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Book of songs for Afghan youth

Former Peace Corps volunteer will speak about effort at library.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 12:01 am

Imagine yourself a child growing up in a world where you never learned fun little songs like “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” or “The Itsy, Bitsy Spider.”

That's what it's been like for generations of Afghan children, who have grown up through war after war.

Louise Pascale hopes to return childhood songs to Afghan children through The Afghan Children's Songbook Project. She will speak about the work at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Allen County Public Library, 900 Library Plaza. Her presentation has been organized by the locally based Indiana Center for Middle East Peace.

Pascale has taught for more than 15 years in the Integrated Teaching Through the Arts program at Lesley University, which has campuses in and near Boston.

She originally started her work on a book of Afghan children's songs in the 1960s while serving in Afghanistan as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, it says on her organization's website, www.afghansongbook.org.

The website offers this history:

In Kabul, she worked with Afghan poets and musicians to create a book of children's songs. She then traveled from school to school to teach children the songs. She also asked children to draw pictures to accompany the songs.

The songs and some of the drawings were published as a songbook in 1968 in Afghanistan.

In 2003, Pascale came across her copy of the songbook and thought, because of the many years of war in Afghanistan, few of the songbooks still may exist there.

She began an effort to return the songs to Afghan children.

She enlisted the help of well-known Afghan musician Vaheed Kaacemy of Toronto. Along with researching and arranging eight songs from the original songbook, Kaacemy collected or wrote eight more songs. He then recorded Afghan children singing the songs for a new songbook.

The new edition has a 60-minute CD of the songs and a booklet containing the lyrics and drawings from the original children's songbook. Pascale hopes Afghans can use the new book to bring the songs back into the lives of their children.

For more information on the project or to listen to samples, go to www.afghansongbook.org.