Fred Smith

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Concerts raise funds for Afghan charities

 Published in T&N150 August 2022

 

To mark the one-year anniversary of the fall of Kabul, Fred Smith and band have been touring his new show, ‘Sparrows of Kabul’, in a series of concerts in August and September to raise funds for Afghan charities.

An extraordinary song cycle, ‘Sparrows of Kabul’ has been described as a “a beautiful retelling of Australia’s Afghanistan experience…”, “utterly beguiling” and “a must see” by critics.

Smith has also released a single called “Gates of KIA” which he wrote after returning home from working on the evacuation of Kabul International Airport in August 2021.

Fred Smith is seen by many as the unofficial storyteller of Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan.

The lyrics to his song ‘Sapper’s Lullaby’ are engraved in marble at the Australian plot at the centuries old British War Cemetery in Kabul.

He 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 and put on regular concerts playing with bands comprising Australian, US and Dutch soldiers as well as Afghan interpreters.

Returning to Australia, he released these songs on the album ‘Dust of Uruzgan’.

The CD received rave reviews and earned him comparisons to the 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.

Smith also wrote a book called ‘The Dust of Uruzgan’ described by Channel 10 Political Editor, Hugh Riminton, as “as convincing a picture as we will ever have of the tragedy, hope, oddness and courage of Australia’s Uruzgan enterprise…an astonishingly vibrant piece of reportage from the heart of our longest war.”

In 2020, Smith went back to Afghanistan to work in the Australian Embassy in Kabul.

After Kabul fell under Taliban control, he worked from Kabul International Airport (KIA) and Al Minhad Airbase on Australia’s mission to evacuate passport and visa holders.

His experiences at the human logjams at the gates of the airport are expressed in his new single, ‘Gates of KIA’.

“Seeing the desperation with my own eyes struck me to the core”, said Smith.

Since returning, Fred blended his stories and songs from the evacuation into the ‘Dust of Uruzgan’ stage show which he toured to 80 theatres between 2014-18.

Called ‘Sparrows of Kabul’, the new show offers a vivid personal account of Australia’s 20 year involvement in Afghanistan, culminating in the fall of Kabul and the evacuation.

“The perception is that our evacuation mission was a “monumental stuff-up”, but in fact the Australian team managed to get 4,100 people out, most of whom are now living in Australia.

“Their girls and boys are going to school and having swimming lessons.

“We’ve changed people’s lives”, said Smith.

“Their’s is a story worth telling”.

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