The Washington Post

State Department bands rock the free world

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits the U.S. embassy in Kabul. No word whether she’s a Backsheesh Boys groupie. (Kevin Lamarque/Associated Press)

Seems State department employees there like to blow off steam from stressful jobs by picking up an axe — or a mike. The latest issue of State Magazine, the agency’s glossy in-house monthly magazine, profiles a few bands that have sprung up at the post.

There’s the Mission Essential Jazz Band, which performs all the standards and has wowed crowds at events like the embassy’s Spring Fling Ball and July 4th celebration. The ensemble has also entertained at the British and Russian embassies.

Playing more modern tunes is The Spin Boldaks (named after a particularly dangerous town in the Kandahar province), an acoustic- guitar band that covered alternative classics and dance grooves, including Madonna’s “Holiday.” Alas, like most great bands, they eventually broke up (the members scattered to different assignments around the globe), but the magazine notes that fans can still see photos on the band’s Facebook page (dig the ironic-1980s getups like leopard pants and skinny ties).

But the current darling of the Kabul embassy scene is the Backsheesh Boys (the name is a Persian-language riff on the now-defunct boy band the Backstreet Boys), who started out playing mostly southern rock, but whose repertoire now includes classic rock. The band has appeared at hotspots like the embassy’s old Duck and Cover Bar, the Red Tent (which the magazine describes as “infamous”), the Clamshell at Camp Eggers, and the International Security Assistance Force’s Club 37.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.


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