On a sunny, late-September afternoon in the garden of a guesthouse in Kabul, just beyond the armed guard at the iron gate, a couple of girls are tuning up for guitar practice. All headscarves and concentration, they stretch tentative fingers along the strings. Their teacher, a 56-year-old musician from Los Angeles named Lanny Cordola, sports own head covering, a green doo-rag holding in check a graying ponytail that drifts down the middle of his back.
The former arena rocker, who has played guitar with Guns N’ Roses and the Beach Boys, now devotes himself to teaching music to Kabul’s street kids. Cordola has been moving between L.A. and Kabul for the past three years, toting donated guitars and a desire to turn around some young lives.
In 2010, Cordola’s own life changed. A friend who had been working with Pakistani musicians invited him to come along and join the collaboration in various parts of Pakistan. During one of Cordola’s visits, in 2012, he read a New York Times article about two girls who’d been killed in Kabul.
The girls, Parwana, 11, and Khorshid, 15, had been selling trinkets on the street with their seven-year-old sister Mursal. As the older girls went in one direction and Mursal headed a different way, a suicide bomber struck, killing Parwana, Khorshid and five others.
Touched by the story, Cordola says he felt compelled to reach out. So in 2014, with the help of a translator, he tracked down Mursal and her family in Kabul.