Sparrows of Kabul
Fred Smith's extraordinary song cycle offers a fascinating firsthand account of Australia's involvement in Afghanistan from the dust of Uruzgan to the fall of Kabul...finely observed snapshots of a harsh, sad and funny reality...towering artistic achievement
Fred Smith and band present this extraordinary song cycle on Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan.
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. It culminates with material he wrote after working on the dramatic evacuation from Kabul in August 2021.
Fred Smith was the first Australian diplomat to be sent to work alongside Australian soldiers in Uruzgan Province in 2009 and a last to leave in 2013. While there he wrote songs about his experience and put on regular concerts on the base in Tarin Kowt.
Returning to Australia, he recorded these songs on an album Dust of Uruzgan. The CD received rave reviews comparing him to great Australian balladeers Eric Bogle, Don Walker and John Schumann. The title track was covered by Lee Kernaghan on his top selling Spirit of the Anzacs album.
In 2020, Smith went back to Afghanistan where he found himself working from Kabul International Airport (KIA).
Since returning, he built a final version of the Dust of Uruzgan stage show that toured to 80 theatres around Australia. Called Sparrows of Kabul, the show does a remarkable job of explaining Australia’s 20 year involvement in Afghanistan, culminating the evacuation.
“The Australian team managed to get 4100 people out. Their girls and boys are going to school. We’ve changed people’s lives” said Smith. “This is a story worth telling”.
Form and Style
The Sparrows of Kabul show is delivered with a band, a PA system and projector and screen. Images on a screen bring to life the songs and stories.
The songs themselves have been recognised as amongst the finest ballad writing in Australian music on par with the likes of Eric Bogle, John Schumann and Don Walker. These are interspersed with personal anecdotes delivered with a wry humour that engages the audience from the start brings them into the world that Fred Smith lived so deeply.
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 Australian 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.”
Many Australians watched the collapse of Kabul last year with horror and dismay. They want to understand these events. They feel a real sympathy for Afghans, including the thousands who made it to Australia. People want to grieve for all that was lost during Australia’s mission in Afghanistan, and to welcome Afghan evacuees to Australia. There is an appetite for this show.
We offer a teacher’s resource pack and the following workshops/presentations (for an additional $350) suitable for schools (Year 10, 11 and 12) and libraries:
1. Australia in Afghanistan (lecture/book talk)
Part lecture, part concert, this workshop discusses the Australian involvement in Afghanistan from its origins in post-9/11 global politics to the fall of Kabul in August 2021. It looks at important questions like why were Australian soldiers and diplomats working in Afghanistan, how did we come to be in Uruzgan Province, what we trying to achieve there, what were the challenges, whey did the Afghan state disintegrate, why are things the way they are in Afghanistan, what did we achieve there, was it worth it, and what lessons can be learned for Australian society?
Duration: 60 minutes
Age Suitability: Year 10 upwards
Maximum Workshop size: More the better
Tech requirements: digital projector, screen, Audio PA if necessary for room size.
2. Australian involvement in peacekeeping
While armies have traditionally been built for state-on-state conflict, the Australian military, since 1996, has been involved in a series of peacekeeping missions to help stabilise fragile states such as in East Timor, Bougainville, Solomon Islands, and Afghanistan. This workshop examines how and why we have become involved in these missions and discusses what is it like to live in a society where government has lost control of law and order and competing armed groups struggle for power.
Duration: 60 minutes
Age Suitability: Year 10 upwards
Maximum Workshop size: More the better Tech requirements: digital projector, screen, Audio PA if necessary for room size.
3. Writing and arranging Australian contemporary songs
Looking at the great Australian narrative song writing tradition from Lawson to Kev Carmody to Paul Kelly, this workshop teaches students how to build songs that tell stories dealing with issues in their own communities.
“A beautiful retelling of Australia’s Afghanistan experience…” Adrienne Francis, ABC 666
“This was more than a concert. It was an astute analysis of Australia’s 20-year involvement in the Afghan War from a humanitarian who witnessed the many shades of war first hand. This show needs to tour the country so that Australians all over can gain an understanding of the horrors of war and the beauty of peace.”Ian McLean, City News
“Finely observed snapshots of a harsh, sad and funny reality…In concert he has a knack for balancing drama and humour…towering artistic achievement” John Shand, Sydney Morning Herald
“Fred Smith is an Australian national treasure. Diplomat, philosopher, poet and raconteur his songs reverberate with the prophetic voice of humanity…an extraordinary, wonderful and heart-uplifting concert.” Peter Wilkins, Canberra Critics Circle
“An exceptional songwriter and certainly the equal of Bogle, Walker and Schumann… a cycle of songs that are raw, remarkably honest and suitably ambivalent about the nature of war… a collection of songs that offers an intimate perspective” Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald
“A powerful, unforgettable performance, beautifully produced to tell the story of Afghanistan through the eyes of Australians who were there.” Virginia Hausseger
Available Marketing Collaterals
Marketing dropbox includes poster designs, flyers, MP3s, press photos, press releases, media packs, music videos, Australian Story documentary, book, education pack
Fred Smith Productions presents concerts combining song, story, and imagery to offer compelling firsthand accounts of recent events.
The company worked with regional arts bodies and individual theatres to tour the “Dust of Uruzgan” show to over 80 venues between 2014 and 2018.
Fred Smith is an experienced performer and tour manager having worked on the Australian and North American festival circuits for 25 years. He has released 11 studio albums.
“Fred Smith is an Australian national treasure. Diplomat, philosopher, poet and raconteur his songs reverberate with the prophetic voice of humanity.” Peter Wilkins, Canberra Critics Circle
“Fred Smith is simply the best folk/country musician working in this country…beyond writing some of the finest songs about Australians at war, he has created a repertoire that is wry, literate, witty, powerfully emotional and insightful.” (Bruce Elder, SMH).
He will tour WA with experienced WA musicians Josh Gray (double bass – WAPA); Fiona Rea- (piano vocals); Reuben Kooperman (drums). This ensemble will be doing initial performances of Sparrows of Kabul at Night Owl Studios in Perth on 17 June, Denmark Festival of Voice on 18 June,and the Nanga Festival on 8 October.
ArtformsLive Music, Multidisciplinary
AudienceMusic fans - Many music fans are already familiar with Fred's songs through ABC Radio National and music festivals around the country. Beyond that, music enthusists can be engaged by offering MP3s to radio stations for airplay, free CD giveaways for the first five ticket buyers. Presenters can draw on the Lee Kernaghan connection (Lee recently covered the title track "Dust of Uruzgan" on his top selling Spirit of the ANZACs album) and work with local folk and country and western music festivals, groups, record stores, clubs and media outlets to promote. People interested in Australians at war Can be engaged by emphasising this is a unique firsthand account of the experience of Australians involved in our country's longest war. Local RSL's will be an important point of contact. Partnerships with military communities including Mates4Mates, RSL, Legacy, Solder On, and Australian Defence Force can be called on to promote the production to members and their families. Local military bases can be approached with offers of discount tickets for soldiers and their families. Book lovers Fred's book The Dust of Uruzgan has proved popular in book clubs and libraries around the country. Local libraries may be a useful networking hub. Book talks can be organized. Fred's Fans Fred has an email list of over 12,000 addresses around the country which he uses to promote all concerts. This show already has a reputation in regional WA from previous tours, which will assist in spreading word of mouth. Year 11 and 12 history and social studies Target secondary schools students year 11 and 12 - education pack already developed and freely available online.
Bump In2.5 hours
Bump Out1 hour
CostsRemount Cost: $
Weekly Fee: $10,000
Company ContactsFred Smith
0403 816 311
Tell me more
Venue FormatAll from Proscenium archs to yacht clubs
Maximum performances a week: 4
Does this show require a remount? No
First Possible Performance: 2 hours after bump in
Minimum Break Between Shows: 1 hour
Minimum stage dimensions: 5m wide by 3m deep
Staging and Set Description: We need a PA system and a screen
Lighting requirements: 3 spots and a general wash
Audio requirements: Ideally an inhouse PA, but we can bring our own. 3 vocal mics, 3 direct inputs, drum mics as appropriate/needed
Other technical or performance notes: 1 tech or we can do it ourselves