Former Long Beach resident Lanny Cordola said he’d often thought about Afghanistan: the Russians invaded the Middle Eastern country on his birthday, Dec. 24, 1979, beginning a war.
“Millions of Afghans were killed, displaced, maimed by land mines and other horrific situations that war brings upon the innocent,” Cordola said from his now-Afghanistan base. “After the Russians left, the warlords that the American government empowered with guns and bombs and money turned on each other, which saw the rise of the Taliban.”
Now, guitarist Cordola helps Afghani children with his music, producing humanitarian project Girl with a Guitar and the nonprofit The Miraculous Love Kids, with more than 100 youngsters in the war-torn land. Performers such as Brian Wilson also have tapped the children to be in their songs. He also started The Miraculous Love Kids Center, playing and teaching guitar in schools and internally displaced persons camps, and to children on the street.
But the former Giuffria, House of Lords and Magdallan 1980s rock band member’s work didn’t start there.
In 2010, Cordola said he was asked to collaborate with musicians in Pakistan, when the country was faced with catastrophic flooding.
“I began to visit flood camps in the north and was struck by the conditions of the kids: immense hardship,” Cordola said. “In spite of it all, there was an existential joy that was present… It moved me to my core. I made a conscious decision to work on making music to help give them a voice — through collaborations and recordings, and began galvanizing the music community wherever I could to make it a reality.”
He returned to Long Beach, he said, and in 2012 read about the suicide bombing deaths of sisters Parwana and Khorshid in Afghanistan.
“This deeply hit a nerve,” Cordola said. “I just couldn’t fathom how two beautiful girls like this could be sacrificed so indiscriminately to the altar of war and poverty.”
Their images stayed with him, he said. On another Pakistan trip, he reached out to someone who put him in touch with the sisters’ family, he said, and arranged to meet the mother and other children. The father had left them due to a drug addiction, Cordola said, and they were left in poor conditions: no bathroom, running water or kitchen.
“I promised I would help them move to a new place and get her three youngest kids into a good private school,” Cordola said.
He followed through with his promise, he said, raised money with a gofundme website, and returned in 2015 with a guitar. One of the children who’d survived, Mursal, was curious about the instrument and learned how to strum, he added. Girl with a Guitar was the result, Cordola said, and has been in various media outlets, including the BBC.
Cordola moved to Kabul in 2016. About 100 other children, mostly girls, are now part of The Miraculous Love Kids, he said, and are included on a recently-recorded song, “Love and Mercy,” with Brian Wilson. Cordola said he recorded Wilson’s parts in February in L.A. and the children last week. He said he’ll finish mixing the parts together in May on a Long Beach visit. The song will be available on iTunes shortly thereafter, he said, adding he’s working on a book and new songs.
Afghanistan is home indefinitely, Cordola said, and he plans to go to Pakistan and other nearby countries.
“My aim is to work with traumatized and underprivileged kids in the U.S., Mexico, Haiti, Middle East and on,” Cordola said. “But somehow, because of Parwana and Khorshid, the spirit brought me to Afghanistan.”
For more information, visit themiraculouslovekids.org.