Random Lengths News
Guitars for Afghan Girls
Local Musician Ventures to Teach Musical Stars
In 2014, following the reporting of a 2012 terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Lanny Cordola, a Los Angeles musician and cofounder of Magdallan [a Christian metal supergroup] packed up his guitar and left for the country to see how he could help. He later returned to Afghanistan and engaged in youth work, teaching guitar to teenagers of the war-torn country.
“The plan is to make this an entity where [the girls] can travel the world, play music, tell the story about their lives and the people of Afghanistan,” Cordola said.
He calls these girls The Miraculous Love Kids. Cordola has been teaching them guitar and together with Cordola, the girls have recorded videos of them performing virtually alongside huge American musicians like Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, Sammy Hagar, The Bangles, The GoGos, The Runaways, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Australian singer Nick Cave and others.
Cordola, who was born in Harbor City, gained much of his success in Hollywood in the mid 1980s to ’90s. The guitarist, songwriter and producer has also been a member of glam rock bands Giuffria and House of Lords.
He spoke to Random Lengths News from Pakistan, to which he relocated on the very last day of the American pull out of troops from Afghanistan. He waited until he had to leave. His visa was about to expire. Now, he is trying to raise awareness and funds to get 12 particularly vulnerable girls with their families out
of Afghanistan. Because of their video exposure and the toppling of the government to Taliban forces, these girls are now targets.
The last time the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, in the late 1990s, it banned music. So far, this time, it hasn’t outlawed music officially but the possibility has a chilling effect.
“I was at the end of my journey in the matrix of mainstream music and was looking for a way to give a voice to the war torn, poverty stricken kids through music — 25,000 that perish painful deaths each day due to poverty and war,” Cordola said.
Cordola first went to Afghanistan in 2014 because he heard the Taliban had killed two little girls. He said he was angry and mortified. He had been travelling to Pakistan and he said fate had it that he could go to Afghanistan and meet the family of these two little girls. Being a musician, he had his guitar with him thinking he would play for the children.
Upon seeing him, eight-year-old Mursal, the youngest sister who survived that attack, asked Cordola, “Will you be my teacher?”
“[It’s] not even a part of my nature,” he said. “Because I’m a band guy, a studio guy. I’m not the kumbaya guy. These kids opened up a whole portal into my spirit that I became the kumbaya guy.”
The names of her sisters were Parwana, who was 9 or 10, and Khorshid. Cordola noted that they don’t have birthdays and they don’t know exactly how old they are.
“What struck me … I mean, I want to work for non-violence and peace in the world,” Cordola said. “But ... when you go to these horrible places, you might have to put that aside to defend and help some of these kids who are so vulnerable. My thought was, I can no longer live in a world where I cannot do at least something to respond to this evil. I had the opportunity to get over there and meet the family and the sister that survived that attack. That’s a whole other story. is the most incredibly complicated troubling girl I’ve ever met in my life, Mursal.”
Since the events in Afghanistan, Cordola said he’s been going through four kinds of phases: shock, sadness, outrage and gratitude from people who care.
“I just got an email from Cindy Brady of The Brady Bunch [actress Susan Olsen of the 1970s sitcom, The Brady Bunch],” he said. “She lent me her support and Rich Williams from a band that I love, Kansas, and of course, Tom Morello has been stellar and Nick Cave has been stellar. Vicki Peters from the Bangles, in the music community and then just everyday, simple, cool, humble people sending me messages.”
Cordola said it humbled him to the core. Celebrity means nothing to the former session musician unless it’s going to help humanity in some way — the least of our brethren, he said.
“I’m trying to get out three messages, Cordola said. “The Taliban, ISIS and these creatures; they’re not Muslim. For those of us who have a spiritual bent, they feel like a demonic force.
“The other message is that every day, 25,000 children die because of these monsters, because of poverty and war. The third thing is I’m trying to wake up the music community to start being a bigger voice for the Miraculous Love Kids. That’s what they are to me. They are ... little MLKs. They want to be activists now. We actually are doing In The Name Of Love [U2] which is about Martin Luther King and I’m trying to get a hold of Bono now. They sing it so beautifully. Martin Luther King, who is a big influence on us, said, ‘An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.’ It’s priorities ... taking care of the vulnerable. That’s what The Miraculous Love Kids is all about.”
Cordola said he’s 100% committed. People have asked him why he doesn’t just give this up … he did his best. He said he could never give this up. Right now in Pakistan he has a friend named Todd Shea. Shea is the founder of CDRS or Comprehensive Disaster Response Services, a nonprofit registered in the U.S. and Pakistan for disaster relief and development work.
Professor Mark Levine at University of California Irvine introduced the two men. Levine met Shea through an associate who did relief work in Pakistan after the 2005 earthquake. Both musicians, Cordola and Shea are interested in doing humanitarian work with music. They have been working together ever since they met.
The original plan to get 12 girls out of Afghanistan turned into 36, to include the girls’ families. Cordola said it’s been a complete disaster so far.
“So many false hopes,” Cordola said. “So much of this talk. I don’t speak that [nonprofit] language and that’s why I was never really embraced by the American embassy or any NGOs and they didn’t like the fact [I’m an] outsider. Now maybe a few of them are waking up because [people] are writing about me.”
Disaster relief at Ground Zero
On Sept. 11, 2001, Shea was headed to a recording studio to rehearse for his upcoming show at CBGB when he got a call from his manager saying “Turn the TV on, something terrible has happened.”
“I dropped what I was doing and started heading to the towers,” Shea said. “It changed my life because I immediately went into relief work after that and kind of put my music career in the dirt. My manager was Sid Bernstein, the guy that brought The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to America. He was retired [then] but got behind my music. He was good to have on my team.”
After 9/11, Shea realized he was good at logistics and supply chain for first responders.
“After a week at Ground Zero I left there changed. What I learned about myself at Ground Zero armed me with the knowledge and intention to go forward and use that knowledge to help in disaster situations.”
Since then Shea has been involved in disaster situations in Pakistan and in several hurricanes and other disasters in America and various conflict zones or camps including Belize, Kuwait, the Philippines, Japan, Haiti and Bangladesh.
Shea said right now there are a couple problems with the MLK girls. Almost none of them or their families have passports. Further, the Pakistani government is trying to keep this relief situation under control. Shea said he understands what they’re doing, but to get to a third country without their passports, the girls are going to be refugees and be located in a refugee camp for a while no matter what. Getting them out of Afghanistan is problematic but possible. The passport office and the agencies involved in processing passports are not fully functional. It could take months. They are considering getting them to Pakistan with just their birth certificates and then try to get their passports over time.
In Pakistan, Shea and his organization can take care of these girls and it’s where Cordola happens to be right now.
“We think it’s a good option if we can get them here and get Pakistan’s permission to keep them here at least within the next year, so we can have time to figure out what to do with them. We’re appealing to the Pakistani government … and recently sent letters to get permission to have them here with us.”
Shea said they don’t need Pakistan’s money or for the government to take care of the girls or house them. They want time to process the paperwork, get the passports and then process the cases onward so that number one: they get the girls out of a dangerous place so they are safe. Number two: it buys them time to figure out where they want to bring them, which isn’t necessarily the United States. That’s only one option. Shea said Cordola is considering Norway and other European countries like Bulgaria. But those are just possibilities.
Musician steps up
In the meantime, musician Tom Morello released a statement on behalf of the Miraculous Love Kids. Cordola has received more than 1,500 letters and emails — most of it positive. And some are donations.
“Tom Morello is like a secular saint,” CorShe dola said. “That dude cares about the world. He played with our girls on the song Sweet Dreams [Eurythmics]. When you see the one girl, Jelly Bean, she just knows this is Mr. Tom and he’s a really good guitar player. She has no idea he’s a world renowned guitar maestro. When you see the video and they’re trading licks, I’m like a proud father because I’m like a father to some of these girls.”
When we spoke to Cordola, the girls were all with their families, not with him. Cordola did that by design. He deliberately kept everything small. If the U.S. had not pulled out of Afghanistan, Cordola’s plan for the girls was for them to go on a U.S. tour — a goodwill tour — and to meet musicians like Brian Wilson. He also wanted to start work on a docu-series and to record at Sun Records in Memphis. Lastly, he wanted to take the MLKs to see their namesake memorial in the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
“To go to these great places where Martin Luther King did his great works, [to] the Grand Canyon, a proper tour like that,” Cordola said. The plan was I wanted to get some [of the girls] to the U.S. next year, but because of COVID-19, that is a whole other level of complexity,” Cordola said.
One of the songs in MLKs repertoire is Peter Gabriel’s Red Rain. Cordola described the amazing reaction the girls had to it.
“[They heard] the song, the kids [were] up and they started clapping, like it was a stomp and singing. It was like these kids have just changed my whole perspective on life and music.”
Raising the funds is for their future, Cordola said. The next step is working to do everything he can to get them out. It’s driving him crazy. The best place for them is in Pakistan.
“I talk to them daily,” Cordola said. “My mantra is ‘please listen to me, and I will listen to you.’ And they do listen.”
Details: www.miraculouslovekids.org and www.cdrsworld.org
Tom Morello’s Facebook post: https:// www.facebook.com/lanny.cordola/ posts/10224746773953213